Ruins, reconstruction and photography in Europe after 1945

This summer CRAM member Dr Tom Allbeson has been working on a book for Bloomsbury. Provisionally titled Reconstructing Europe: Photography and the Cultural History of the City, c.1945-60, it will be published as part of their new series on photography and history. The book looks at the prominent role of urban photography in the debates about rebuilding the towns and cities of Britain, France and West Germany in the wake of the Second World War. It addresses a range of imagery from the dramatic depiction of war ruins (e.g. Jean Roubier’s photography of Normandy) to the ubiquitous architectural photographs of modernist tower blocks that began to spring up across the continent.

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Jean Roubier, L’art française dans la guerre: Caen (Paris: Fayard, 1945).

The book will trace this dynamic visual discourse across the pages of exhibition catalogues, the illustrated press, coffee table books and all sorts of other photographically illustrated publications, from souvenirs to government-sponsored pamphlets. Tom will argue that – in the immediate aftermath of the bombing campaign and in the early years of the Cold War – the image of the city was a key symbol in Western Europe which facilitated both a negotiation of past conflict and a vision of future cooperation. The manuscript will be off to the publisher at the end of October.

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