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Cityscape Photography

Cities and architecture were among the first subjects in the 19th century as photographers determined how to fix images using a variety of processes. Structures were ideal subjects for cameras and photographic plates and papers that required a long exposure time, as they remained stationary.

A photographer who captured the changing cityscape is Charles Marville, commissioned to document the city streets and buildings of Paris before, during, and after the razing of parts of the city to make way for the city plans of Baron Haussmann. The prints are a fascinating yet melancholy view of the past, and an exciting look at a city in transit. Albumen prints of places were also popular collectors items, and in a new age of travel, many people kept albums of places they visited or wished to visit.

At the turn of the 20th century, photographers were fascinated with rapidly industrializing and urbanizing cities. The portability of cameras improved rapidly, allowing photographers to capture cityscape photos. Photographs not only documented the architecture of their urban environment, but also sought to incorporate elements such as surrealism and abstraction into the composition. Straight photographers, such as Paul Strand, were interested in making sharply focused prints of New York that also revealed interesting, abstract patterns.


Quick Facts

  • One of the earliest photographs was a cityscape, a daguerreotype taken by Louis Jacque Daguerre in 1838. The early image, "Two Views of the Boulevard du Temple, Paris, Taken the Same Day," did not capture the movement of pedestrians as the exposure time was very long
  • Both Andre Kertész and Henri Cartier-Bresson looked to capture unrepeatable instances of people interacting with architecture in urban environments. Kertesz's photographs often appeal surreal, as in his 1928 "Meudon," where the motion of a man walking and a train streaking past on a bridge pierces the cityscape
  • Alfred Stieglitz, the great influencer of the history of photography in the U.S., chose to photograph the New York cityscape in his late career. Advocating for work that was direct and devoid of trickery, Stieglitz found the vantage point of high windows a fitting subject

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Sellers Who Sell Cityscape Photography


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Karamitsos