Glossy Buildings, Planned Images: Architectural Photography across Contested Spaces in Los Angeles, 1940-1980


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Art History


This project examines the rise of architectural photography in mid-twentieth-century discourses around the intersection of art practice and urban redevelopment in Los Angeles. Architectural photography is conventionally studied as a technical practice; this project redefines it as a capacious field of images harnessed to create meaning out of buildings in relation to raced and classed spaces it helped construct. Through photobooks, magazines, artist books, and city surveys—all collaborative publications aimed at reimagining and circulating Los Angeles’s urban form as a model for the rest of the nation—the project reconsiders how architectural photography made palatable a mode of representation that seemingly integrated place, race, and nation within one frame. It argues that from 1940 to 1980, photography’s failure to visualize the social and racial complexities of particular urban spaces exposed a growing crisis over civic and cultural identity in US cities more broadly.