Constructing Imperial Berlin: Photography and the Metropolis by Miriam Paeslack
How photography and a modernizing Berlin informed an urban image-and one another-in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city that once visually epitomized a divided Europe has thrived in the international spotlight as an image of reunified statehood and urbanity. Yet research on Berlin's past has focused on the interwar years of the Weimar Republic or the Cold War era, with much less attention to the crucial Imperial years between 1871 and 1918.
Constructing Imperial Berlin is the first book to critically assess, contextualize, and frame urban and architectural photographs of that era. Berlin, as it was pronounced Germany's capital in 1871, was fraught with questions that had previously beset Paris and London. How was urban expansion and transformation to be absorbed? What was the city's understanding of its comparably short history? Given this short history, how did it embody the idea of a capital? A key theme of this book is the close interrelation of the city's rapid physical metamorphosis with repercussions on promotional and critical narratives, the emergence of groundbreaking photographic technologies, and novel forms of mass distribution.
Providing a rare analysis of this significant formative era, Miriam Paeslack shows a city far more complex than the common cliches as a historical and aspiring place suggest. Imperial Berlin emerges as a modern metropolis, only half-heartedly inhibited by urban preservationist concerns and rather more akin to North American cities in their bold industrialization and competing urban expansions than to European counterparts.