Stabilizing the City: Berenice Abbott's Photographs and Urban Representation in the 1930s


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Department of Art History


Berenice Abbott produced an extraordinary photographic portrait of New York City between 1929 and 1939. Her images of the built environment were immediately and remarkably well-received in the 1930s, when the severe economic depression compounded existing fears about the nature and future of the modern metropolis. My dissertation analyzes how Abbott's project both reinforced and challenged specific cultural forms—preservation efforts, boosterism, city guides, and fantasies of ascent—that mitigated the uncertainties of rapid urban change. By recovering how Abbott's pictures participated in practices that shaped the national urban consciousness, this study offers a model for considering how images of the city affect the perception and conception of the physical and social urban landscape.