We know architecture first-hand, as a three-dimensional experience; we know it also, as Mary N. Woods observes in Beyond the Architect's Eye, through photography. Photographs have often captured the essence of buildings in ways that transcend our first-hand experiences, transforming them into indelible memories. Indeed, much twentieth-century modern architecture is known to us through the iconic images of photographers such as Ezra Stoller, Bill Hedrick, and Julius Shulman, who worked with and for architects.

Woods, professor of the history of architecture and urbanism at Cornell, challenges the canonization of this kind of architectural photography, especially in so far as it often erases human presence and gives us instead an abstract aesthetic of line, plane, curve, and volume—"eye candy or soft pornography," she calls it (xxii). In doing so, she invokes one of the great photographers of the 1930s, Berenice Abbott, who...

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