Friday Photo – Cult of the Skyline

Type Minneapolis, or the name of most other U.S. cities (just not Detroit) into Google image search. Try Houston or Denver or Seattle.

What do you see? Endless shots of glowing skylines. The downtown towers jut futuristically into a moody sky. The cars blur into fiber-optic wisps – the city appears to be an orgy of commerce and excitement!

Minneapolis skyline at Night (_DSC6919a)

Minneapolis Skyline

Minneapolis Skyline





But it’s an illusion!

What you’re seeing is middle managers and accountants on their way back to the suburbs after an uneventful day at the office. They had Chipotle for lunch and it’s not sitting right – probably about to be in the toilet along with their 401k.

I’m tired of this particular genre of skyline photography. It’s usually the first thing to show up when you search for images of a city, and it’s commonly used to illustrate linkbait listicles (the 20 metros with the hottest singles!)

It tells you nothing. It’s not iconic, it’s generic. Downtown towers at dusk generally all look pretty much the same. But what really gets me about the ones from Minneapolis, a significant number of which are taken from the 24th st. pedestrian overpass, is that the photographers have had to physically alter the environment in order to get their gleaming, aggrandized photos. There are about a dozen holes along the North side of the chainlink, most of which have been patched and then reopened again.

It’s kind of like how these days you can check a box to have your braces airbrushed out of your high school yearbook photo. So in case you’ve been wondering what the Minneapolis skyline really looks like, here it is.


6 thoughts on “Friday Photo – Cult of the Skyline

  1. Matt Steele

    This. Type in Paris or Barcelona, and you’ll see sidewalks and civic spaces, not freeways leading up to glass and steel. Or would we rather aspire to be Houston or Atlanta?

    This was the view from my desk (from 26th Street to be precise) for two years. But as I worked from that desk with the best view in town, I kept wishing I worked downtown, so I could walk those sidewalks.

  2. Adam MillerAdam

    My office, in which I’m sitting, is in all of those photos. My home is in some of them. And I’m considering Chipotle for lunch.

    I walked to work and I will walk home. I’ve not been to a suburb since returning from the airport on Saturday. Other than an brief ride in a taxi yesterday after deciding it was getting to cold to finish my walk home from the Gopher basketball game, that was also the last time I was in a car.

    While I’m certainly not typical, maybe we should be careful with stereotypes?

  3. Tyler

    Seems like the author had to go thru a lot of photos to find all of those from the same vantage point. A lot of other photos are from across the river near Stone Arch Bridge. Or from north on one of the city bridges over the river. And why is it such a big deal that someone didnt want chain link fences in the way of a beautiful skyline pic? That is like being mad that someone stood to the left of a light pole to take the pic instead of having the pole right in the middle of the pic. And this argument comes when more and more people are moving into the city. Not sure the agenda here.

  4. Sean Fahey

    I really enjoyed the last sentence+photo of this post and your entire blog very much. Google image search “minneapolis hdr”. “Everyone is doing a great job.”

  5. Marcus

    I always found it fascinating after visiting Europe how much more dense their city are and how they have little, if any skyscrapers. Like mentioned in the article, you don’t see office towers in the iconic skyline pictures of Paris or London or Moscow.

    Maybe America has a phallic obsession (bigger is better)?

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