Photography, Reconstruction and the Cultural History of the Postwar European City  book cover
1st Edition

Photography, Reconstruction and the Cultural History of the Postwar European City

ISBN 9781474234962
Published November 17, 2020 by Routledge
290 Pages 70 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Examining imagery of urban space in Britain, France and West Germany up to the early 1960s, this book reveals how photography shaped individual architectural projects and national rebuilding efforts alike.

Exploring the impact of urban photography at a pivotal moment in contemporary European architecture and culture, this book addresses case studies spanning the destruction of the war to the modernizing reconfiguration of city spaces, including ruin photobooks about bombed cities, architectural photography of housing projects and imagery of urban life from popular photomagazines, as well as internationally renowned projects like UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters, Coventry Cathedral and Berlin’s Gedächtniskirche. This book reveals that the ways of seeing shaped in the postwar years by urban photography were a vital aspect of not only discourses on the postwar city but also debates central to popular culture, from commemoration and modernization to democratization and Europeanization.

This book will be a fascinating read for researchers in the fields of photography and visual studies, architectural and urban history, and cultural memory and contemporary European history.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Contexts and Concepts

2. ‘Architecture of Destruction’: Visual discourses of ruin photobooks, c.1944–50

3. ‘To Re-educate the Eye’: Architectural photography and the housing crisis, c.1947–57

4. ‘The Face of the City’: Photographic Pleasures and the Illustrated press, c.1949–55

5. ‘The World of Tomorrow’: Photography and Internationalist Visions, c. 1955–62

6. Conclusion: The Transnational Optics of Postwar Reconstruction

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Tom Allbeson is a Lecturer in Cultural History in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University, UK.


"Throughout this incredibly rich and detailed book, Allbeson asserts that photographs deserve the same rigorous treatment as any other empirical source. The author has delivered an intellectual tour de force that takes us to the war-torn landscapes of cities and towns in Britain, France and Germany."

--German History

"This diligently researched and engagingly written book will be a valuable resource and model for urban historians, historians of visual culture and all those interested in the fascinating inter-relation between history, urban transformations and the role that photography played in complicating that history."

--Urban History

"...a strong archival and empirical study that effectively emphasises the transnational similarities and relationships of representation that existed between post-war France, Britain and Germany. ...This is in many ways a rich and significant work that will prompt discussions in post-war European history— which includes Britain—on the importance of visual modalities of reconstruction mentalities."

--Contemporary British History