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Because the technology of photography and the rise of the modern city coincided almost exactly, both temporally and spatially, the emergence of modern visual culture is closely associated with cities and city life, and photographic imagery in all its forms is central to the field of urban studies. From the earliest experiments in the 1830s to the latest developments in digital imaging on websites, the art of photography—whether by professionals or amateurs—has become an important way that people explore, analyze, document, and celebrate the urban environment and one of the key modalities by which the modern city explains itself to itself.

In examining the relationship between photography and the city, it will be useful to keep in mind that photography generally falls into three broad traditions ...

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