Michael Neubürger, Europaturm, 2009, 200 x 125 cm, Diasec
"There haven't been civilization without cities, but cities without civilization."
"Speaking of cities, photography has recently highlighted its capacity to become directly involved in the confrontation and debate with other specific disciplinary areas, such as architecture, city planning and social anthropology. In the face of the ,malaise and gigantic problems caused by the uncontrolled growth of cities, the difficulties encountered in defining theoretical aspects and modes of intervention have produced a situation of disciplinary crisis. The consequence of this has been a loss of credibility on the part of traditional means of analysis and control!. Thus photography appears, in conjunction with other, parallel fields of knowledge, to provide the opportunity for a closer examination of physical reality, at the level of both places and people, capable of taking a sideways look and, if filtered through the experience of art, of presenting a more comprehensible scenario."
Gabriele Baslicio in conversation with Filippo Maggia, "Cityscapes", 1999
"The ideal city was the one built by the gods for men to live in. The reasons for settling in one place or another, for raising walls facing one way or another, were deduced from the advice of wise men; the ideas on health, defence or respect for the divinities determined the origins of places where towns were to be developed. Many of these primitive settlements have given rise, through historical superposition, to modern day cities. And we have seen that the gods' rules were not always the most adequate for protecting us from our enemies or from the elements. Cities built over rivers, on pestiferous sites, facing away from the sea, against the wind ... If some of the rules of the first architects were contradictory, there were others upon which urban planning is still based to this day. But cities are much more than urban planning, much more than architecture. Cities represent cultures, communities of people. Cities are defined by their citizens. In Politics, Aristotle defined the city as "a perfect and absolute set or communion of many villages or streets as a unit."
In contemporary photography, the cityscape has become one of the most well trodden genres. At times resembling in excess the post card picture, other times looking down from the sky in an attempt to take in the entire city; other times consisting of its fragments, portraying its relation to citizens, or the very beauty of its confrontation with the horizon as an unavoidable homage to its architecture. But photography is not a document alone. It is also of undeniably artistic, as well as political and ideological value. In many of the images we have gathered for this issue devoted to the world's cities, there is much more to behold beyond the beauty. We see the artist's intention to look at and capture a reality that he transforms into something else. These are not merely straightforward images of the various cities we can see and visit. The artist's eye cuts, and isolates fragments, making what we are offered, what we see, unrepeatable. It would be naive to believe that that same image will be there for us when we visit Havana or Shanghai. These pictures exist only in their author's archives, in the memory of those who have seen them, in the art collections around the world and on these pages that on this occasion have become the most beautiful atlas, a random archive of fragments of art reshaping our world, demonstrating that the city is still the mattress wherein civilization develops."
Rosa Olivares Exit # 17, Madrid, translated by Dena Ellen Cowan