Luminous Cities: Creative Explorations of Architectural Structures in Urban Landscapes

Edward Steichen, The Maypole, Empire State Building, New York City, 1932

Andreas Feininger, New York at Night, c. 1940

Eugene Atget (France), Coin de la Rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e Arrondissement, Matinee de Mars, 1925

Stephen Thompson, Grande Canale, Venice, c. 1868

Henry Hart (England), House of Parliament, London, c. 1847-1857

Luminous Cities: Creative Explorations of Architectural Structures in Urban Landscapes

Luminous Cities is a fascinating collection of photographs, which have been selected from a delightful exhibition of photographs of the built environment on display at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. The world’s great cities have always been vibrant centers of creativity, in which the built environment is often as inspirational as the activities of its citizens, and since the nineteenth century photographers have creatively explored the idea of the city.

The exhibition enables the viewer to examine the various ways photographers have viewed cities as historical sites, bustling modern hubs and architectural utopias in the 19th and 20th centuries. Through the work of a range of photographers, Luminous Cities leads viewers on a fascinating journey around the world, into the streets, buildings and former lives of some of our greatest international cities.  The many fine photographs presented here, and in the remarkable slide show, include works by renowned photographers Eugene Atget, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, Bill Brandt, Lee Freidlander and Grant Mudford amongst many others.

Photography in the City: Contemporary Urban Atmospheres

Slide Show: Luminous Cities/Architectural Structures in Urban Landscapes

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The Ruins of Detroit: A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

Michigan Central Station

The Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel

Atrium, The Farwell Building

Bagley-Clifford Office of the National Bank of Detroit

The William Livingstone House

The Ruins of Detroit: A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

The Ruins of Detroit is a powerful and disturbing collection of photographs, which are the result of a five-year collaboration by the French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain MeffreThe Ruins of Detroit tells the city’s story in one starkly beautiful photograph after another, adding up to nothing less than an end-of-empire narrative.  The abandoned factories, the eerily vacant schools, the rotting houses and gutted skyscrapers chronicled by Marchand and Meffre are the artefacts of Detroit’s astonishing rise as a global capital of capitalism and its even more extraordinary descent into ruin, a place where the boundaries between the American dream and the American nightmare, between prosperity and poverty, between the permanent and the ephemeral are powerfully and painfully visible.  No place exemplifies both the creative and destructive forces of modernity more than Detroit, past and present.

In addition to these remarkable photographs, this piece presents a memorable slide show of additional images from the collection and a documentary short film.  Pure Detroit is a short film by Ivan George with gorgeous cinematography, but it’s also one that confronts the viewer with dramatic images of the collapse and decay that rapid economic and social change can have upon urban life.  The impact of the film has been described as somewhere between heaven, hell and quiet meditation.  While Pure Detroit is a beautiful visual mood piece, it’s also incredibly sad.  The film reveals so much about the rapid changes we’re encountering in our world right now, how the old things gets broken much faster than new things are put in their place.  Pure Detroit serves as a powerful reminder of what the old things breaking down can be like for so many of us.

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Slide Show: The Ruins of Detroit/A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

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Change in the Metropolis: A Tale of Two Cities

A Former New York: Photographs from the 1960’s and 70’s

Old New York: Photography by Elliott Erwitt, NYC

Slide Show: Photographs of New York in the 1960’s and 70’s

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A Former Chicago: Photographs from the 1960’s and 70’s

Chicago’s South Side in the 1940’s: Photography by Wayne Miller

Slide Show: Photographs of Chicago in the 1960’s and 70’s

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Photo of the Day: Big City Lights, Dark Lonely Nights

Photo of the Day: Big City Lights, Dark Lonely Nights

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

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Disappearing Storefronts: The Edifice Complex and the City’s Changing Face

Disappearing Storefronts: The Edifice Complex and the City’s Changing Face

New York’s neighborhood storefronts have long had the city’s history carved into their unusual, distinct facades. Each of these little stores is as unique as the neighborhood residents that they serve and are run by shopkeepers committed to providing a special service. Many of these shops have long served as essential parts of their communities, vital to the residents who depend on them for a multitude of everyday needs. But the storefront shops are quickly disappearing, as their neighborhoods are transformed by both rapid gentrification and quickly escalating rents in the real estate market.

The dwindling number of these commercial relics in the city’s rapidly changing streets range from tiny, humble “mom and pop” neighborhood stores tucked away on narrow side streets to well-known institutions on historic streets. The photographs of the city’s disappearing storefronts shown here provide a view of the rapid social and economic changes that are threatening the life of unique enterprises that have long made the city’s neighborhoods distinctive.

From photographs and text by James and Karla Murray.

Disappearing Storefronts: The Edifice Complex and the City’s Changing Face

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Storytelling in the City: Songs of Themselves

Storytelling in the City: Songs of Themselves

There are eight million stories in the naked city. And I’ve got one too. But first, do you know that dream where it’s back in February 2007 and you’re pacing outside that dark, cavelike bar with a stage on New York City’s Lower East Side. And there’s a storytelling slam about to start inside and you want to see it but you’re deeply insecure and too scared to go in? And then you’re striding toward the subway because you’ve chickened out, until you stop dead in the middle of the block and say to yourself, “Don’t be absurd?

So in that dream, you turn around, shove six bucks into the ham-fist of the expressionless man at the door and enter the murmuring darkness? And then you squeeze into a seat in the back and the M.C. announces a name he’s drawn from a hat, and the person picked, just an ordinary member of the audience, happens to make his way to the stage, stands in the spotlight, with a five-minute story prepared in his head on the theme of the night, and begins….? Well, I had that dream too. In fact, that exact thing really did happen to me. And here’s the story that I told:

My Song of the City: A Cross-Country Bike Trip to Hell

Read more about this in The New York Times here.

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Abused Chicago Riders Revolt Against Daley’s Decayed Subway System

After years of increasing abuse and neglect, Chicago subway riders finally got fed up, drew the line and revolted against Mayor Daley’s pathetic subway system. A jam-packed rush-hour subway train had been stopped underground in Chicago’s Loop for over an hour on Tuesday morning, held up by a broken-down train ahead. In the stifling, hot and stuffy air, passengers had turned nervous and impatient. Some were throwing up and getting sick from a complete lack of circulating fresh air. Finally, the Chicagoans revolted, ignoring the unpredictably intermittent announcements and pleas from transit workers, who were themselves in a state of total confusion about what was really going on. En mass, the riders decided to leave the stalled trains and to make a long and dangerous trudge through the dirty, dimly lit underground tunnel toward the eventual light of freedom.

As usual in Chicago’s disreputable world of machine politics, Hizzoner’s political flunky transit officials were quick to put all of the blame on the Chicago citizens, on the passengers, saying that the unauthorized evacuation caused bigger problems. Afraid that the passengers making to their freedom through the dark and dirty underground tunnel might be electrocuted by the subway’s electrically charged third rail, transit officials cut off all power to part of the Blue Line, which travels a large U-shaped route between Chicago’s West Side and O’Hare International Airport. Service was terminated for about four hours, and more than a thousand passengers had to be helped off several trains.

Esmeralda Cuevas, 26, who works in Chicago’s Loop as an administrative assistant, was on the train immediately behind the stalled one when she saw a number of haggard people walk by a window of her stranded subway car. “I felt a sense like I want to be with them,” Ms. Cuevas said. “I was impressed with their courage. I thought, ‘I can stay in here with these people and feel hot and uncomfortable, or I can start walking.’ ” And walk she did. So did most of the other stranded passengers from a total of four trains, who forged ahead despite intermittent, confusing public intercom announcements asking them to return.

Some two hours after her ordeal began, Ms. Cuevas finally emerged from the subway crying, with dirt all over her hands and face. An executive at her office downtown advised her to avoid the subway for a few days and to take cabs. But since he didn’t have the generosity to offer to pay for her cab rides, Ms. Cuevas said that she plans to take the train, but on an elevated line, not the underground subway.

At least seven of the Chicago subway passengers suffered injuries and breathing problems that required hospitalization. At the present time, none of their injuries or ailments is thought to be life threatening.

Revolt: Trapped in Underground Subway

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