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Photographic Purlieus:

Intersections of Photography with the Built Environment


Photographic Purlieus is an examination of the relationships between photography and design. This study utilizes an interdisciplinary approach informed by the methodology of cultural analysis. This book analyzes the longstanding and often dialectic relationship between photography and the built environment. Specifically, it argues that when used as social practice, photography is a significant tool to investigate the built environment that provides insight into understandings about space and place by both their architects and their photographers.  This study is not a historical survey or an overview of the photographic medium in relationship to the subject of architecture. Instead, it is a reflection on some bodies of work by photographers whose practices engage with the intersection of photography with the built environment.


It contains three central themes: ‘Histories and Narratives,' ‘De-categorizing and Metaphor' and ‘Issues and Agency.'  Each section provides a close reading informed by a cultural analysis perspective of photographs concerning concepts that include placemaking, mise-en-scene, narrative, settlement and surveillance as well as issues such as photographic social activism and its relationship to the built environment. Selected images related to these ideas are examined from the work of both historic and contemporary photographers and include: Carleton Watkins, Frederick Evans, Eugène Atget, Charles Marville, Gabor Szilasi, Geoffrey James, Bern and Hilla Becher, Kenneth O’ Halloran, Lynne Cohen, Candida Höfer, Anthony Haughey, and Donovan Wylie. It should appeal to photographic scholars and practitioners as well as the general public with interest in design culture.

Research Project Site

Fourteenth Conference on Design Principles & Practices

"Photography, Design Culture and the City: a Photographic Exploration of the Urban Environment." Paper for the Fourteenth International Conference on Design Principles & Practices, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, March 16 2020. Postponed due to COVID-19.

Photographic Purlieus
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