The Logical Place to Take a Picture: William Gedney in Bethlehem
- Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 81, Number 4, Autumn 2014
- pp. 451-476
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- Additional Information
This article uses the photographer William Gedney’s visit to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1975 to consider three aspects of urban touring. First, Gedney’s appreciation of Bethlehem’s aesthetics derived from his adoration of Walker Evans’s well-known 1935 photo from Bethlehem. Gedney mimicked Evans’s moves forty years later, much like fringe tourists interested in urban decay in the twenty-first century study each other’s images to establish valuable sites and styles. Second, Gedney’s visit remained largely disconnected from the variety of economic and demographic change that occurred locally in the sixties and seventies. His focus on surfaces in his photography was echoed by his surface contact with the city itself. Finally, I argue that his photographs should be interpreted in relation to his previous work in the United States and India. Gedney’s trip provides an opportunity to rework narratives of urban decline in the twentieth century.