Journal of American Studies

City Space, Technology, Popular Culture: The Modernism of Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler's Manhatta



Reputedly, painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand's Manhatta is the first significant title in the history of American avant-garde cinema. It is a seven-minute portrait of New York City and focuses on those features which make the city a modern megalopolis – the traffic, the crowds, the high-rise buildings, the engineering wonders, and the speed and dynamism of street life. The film strives to capture rhythmic and graphic patterns in the movements and shapes of cranes, trains, automobiles, boats, steam shovels, suspension bridges, and skyscrapers. Due to the dominance of technology, the entire urban landscape appears in the film as a machine-like aggregate of static and moving parts independent from human intention.

c1 Juan A. Suárez is in the English Department of the Universidad de Murcia, Spain.