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Paul Citroën, Metropolis, 1923

What will the future look like?

The spread and dissemination of images across the globe seems normal to us now, even commonplace. Photographs and artwork bombard us constantly in the modern age, in advertising, media, and every facet of our everyday life. But when photography was just beginning to establish itself as an art form, it changed the consumption of media drastically. Images of cities, of artworks, of nature, and yes, of naked ladies could be taken, reproduced, and spread over vast distances. This meant that it was easier for artists to obtain reference material, but also that new art could be created by combining and collaging the old.

Paul Citroën, along with a small group of colleagues, worked to synthesize images of the modern world into a vision of the potential future. In Metropolis, he fills the entire space with photographs of the city of Paris. The dizzying repetition of shapes, rigid lines, and the contradictory angles (some buildings are viewed from above, others head-on) draws the viewer into an imagined cityscape completely divested from reality or nature. In an interview, he explained, “if you would paste pictures of buildings on a large sheet, it should give an impression of the way many cities looked like. It was a view into the future. It was certainly not just a silly idea." He lived and worked nearly a hundred years ago. I’ll leave it to you to judge - does his work still capture the spirit of a modern, even futuristic city?
Editor's Note: To answer Camille's question: Yes.

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