Taking its name from the Alfred Stieglitz photograph on view in the exhibition, City of Ambition not only examines urban spaces but also looks beyond them to consider the resources and infrastructures which serve and sustain them. Our cultural imaginary defines the city and the natural world in oppositional terms: the former a symbol of progress and futurity, the latter its restorative source. How does this artificial distinction mask the consequences of land-use policies?
With such a query in mind, this selection of photographs directs attention to landscapes altered by human interventions. Many of these images pose questions about networks seen and unseen—public transportation and national surveillance data centers, for example. How do such systems build community or express social values, and what are the associated ecological impacts? Pictured here are sites of subsistence, recreation, construction, and ruin, and we encourage a consideration of the many interconnections within this scope of human activity. Among the photographers featured are Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham, and Richard Misrach.