Historic Preservation

  • Photo by Dorothea Lange, taken in Malheur County, Oregon, October 16, 1939

Picturing Policy: How Visual Culture Shapes the Urban Built Environment

Thursday, April 14, 2016 6:00pmFriday, April 15, 2016 5:00pm
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Meyerson Hall, Lower Gallery


Images play a critical role in shaping perceptions of what cities are, have been, and should be. Documentary images, in particular, have both influenced and reflected the implementation of urban policy. In the Progressive Era, for example, Jacob Riis’s lantern slides stimulated tenement reform in New York City. In the 1930s, Farm Security Administration photographs helped justify New Deal policies. In the post-World War II decades, government-sponsored images spurred urban renewal at the local level. Images from the past also drove postwar historic preservation decisions about how to restore selected properties to mimic earlier eras. In the 1960s and ‘70s, photographs of despoiled natural environments helped instigate passage of federal policies like the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Moreover, across time, images of natural disasters—from San Francisco to New Orleans—have shaped local decisions about what, where, and how to rebuild. This two-day symposium explores the relationship between images—especially photographs—and the urban built environment. Through presentation and conversation among an interdisciplinary group of image makers and scholars, we will consider the often silent ways that visual representations have helped structure the policies and practices of urban life.


Organized by Francesca Russello Ammon (PennDesign)

Co-Sponsored by:
Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
Kleinman Center for Energy Policy
Department of Landscape Architecture
Department of Fine Arts
Department of City and Regional Planning
Humanities + Urbanism + Design Initiative (Sponsored by the Mellon Foundation)
School of Design Office of the Dean



Keynote Session

Thursday, April 14, 6:00pm

Introduction: Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Dean and Paley Professor (PennDesign)

Opening Keynote: Anne Whiston Spirn (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 
Landscape, Photography, and the Art of Discovery


Friday, April 15, 9:00am - 5:00pm

9:00 AM: Registration and breakfast

9:30 AM: Welcome and opening remarks: Francesca Russello Ammon (PennDesign)

10:00 AM: Panel 1
Picturing Projects and Infrastructure

Moderator: Aaron Wunsch (PennDesign)

Dara Orenstein (George Washington University)
The Logistical Image: A Visual History of 'Port Salesology'

Miriam Paeslack (University at Buffalo)
America Recovered: Chad Ress'' Photographs

Katie Marages Schank (George Washington University)
Taking a (Grand)Stand: Maynard Jackson, Media, Racial Politics, and Atlanta Public Housing in the 1970s

12:00 PM: Lunch break

1:30 PM: Panel 2
Picturing Community and Ruin

Moderator: Miles Orvell (Temple University)

Taryn Mudge (PennDesign)
Middletown to Levittown: American Suburbanization through the Lens of Margaret Bourke-White 

Thomas Stubblefield (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)
Photographing Manzanar: The Japanese American 'Internment Camp' as Conflicted Field of Representation

Mary N. Woods (Cornell University)
Urban Ruin and Renewal through Another Lens: The Photographs, Photocollages, and Films of Gordon Matta-Clark

3:30 PM: Break

3:45 PM: Closing artist talk: Nancy Davenport (PennDesign)

4:45 PM: Wrap-up and closing comments