One hundred years ago, architects found in the medium of photography—so good at representing a building’s lines and planes—a necessary way to promote their practices. It soon became apparent, however, that photography did more than reproduce what it depicted. It altered both subject and reception, as architecture in the twentieth century was enlisted as a form of mass communication.
Claire Zimmerman reveals how photography profoundly influenced architectural design in the past century, playing an instrumental role in the evolution of modern architecture. Her “picture anthropology” demonstrates how buildings changed irrevocably and substantially through their interaction with photography, beginning with the emergence of mass-printed photographically illustrated texts in Germany before World War II and concluding with the postwar age of commercial advertising. In taking up “photographic architecture,” Zimmerman considers two interconnected topics: first, architectural photography and its circulation; and second, the impact of photography on architectural design. She describes how architectural photographic protocols developed in Germany in the early twentieth century, expanded significantly in the wartime and postwar diaspora, and accelerated dramatically with the advent of postmodernism.
In modern architecture, she argues, how buildings looked and how photographs made them look overlapped in consequential ways. In architecture and photography, the modernist concepts that were visible to the largest number over the widest terrain with the greatest clarity carried the day. This richly illustrated work shows, for the first time, how new ideas and new buildings arose from the interplay of photography and architecture—transforming how we see the world and how we act on it. –University of Minnesota Press
Claire Zimmerman is associate professor of history of art and the coordinator of doctoral studies in architecture at the Taubman College of the University of Michigan. She teaches courses on 19th and 20th century European and American architecture with research emphases on architectural media and in Weimar Germany and the United Kingdom. Current research interests include architecture culture as it interacts with commerce and industry, and the infrastructures of globalization that underpinned the spread of modern architecture throughout the 20th c. She is co-curating an exhibition at Tate Britain, opening in Fall 2014, titled New Brutalist Image 1949-1955: Hunstanton School and the Photography of Life and Art with Victoria Walsh, Royal College of Art.