The photogenic city : aerial photography and urban visions in Europe, 1914-1945
The thesis investigates the relationship between photography and urban visions in Europe in the period 1914-1945. It focuses in particular on the impact of the aerial gaze upon the ways in which the modern city was perceived and represented. The theoretical background for this inquiry is provided by contemporary debates on photography and visual culture, which are brought to bear on the study of urban representations. The main body of the argument is divided into three parts: 'Aerial Inspections', 'Aerial Imaginations', and 'Aerial Illustrations'. The first part discusses the urban imagery produced within the field of air reconnaissance photography, with particular regard to World War II. The second part charts the rise of an aerial imagination in avant-garde photography, which reconfigured the city as the site and subject of a modern way of seeing. The third part looks at how 'applied' aerial photography was instrumental to illustrate urban visions across various discursive fields, namely tourism, journalism, and urbanism; this section concludes with a case study on the aerial imagery of interwar London, based on the production of a leading air survey company. Besides pinpointing the modes of representation specific to each of these practices, the thesis also describes the traffic of images and the flow of meanings that occurred across their boundaries. It is finally argued that a new urban visuality was the result of the procedures introduced by aerial photography: the photogenic city emerged as a contested field of representation marked out by an underlying tension between spectacle and surveillance.