ConclusionThis study of Charles Sheeler's photographs of the Doylestown area (1917), New York City (1920), the Ford--River Rouge Plant (1927), and Chartres Cathedral (1929), began with three basic objectives: 1. to organize the selected collections of photographs above into four distinct, yet sequential and inter-connected groupings, 2. to expose Sheeler's attempt to decontextualize history and to reduce this history to a mere aesthetic through his photography, and 3. to reveal that Sheeler was in fact not the str ong supporter of the machine age that critics have charged him with being.
While the first three groupings (Doylestown, 1917; New York City, 1920; and Ford--River Rouge, 1927) allowed for an easy show of the decline of agrarianism and the rapid rise of city superstructures and the factory system of mass production, the fourth gr ouping (Chartres Cathedral) provided a more difficult challenge. Whether Sheeler intended to use the photos to show the power and grandeur that once was is unknown. Sheeler rarely talked of his work and when he did, he did so cautiously and without reve aling anythign resembling inerpretation. However, his photographs of Chartres do suspiciously parallel the other three groupings in terms of focal point, lack of human interaction, and ovearall aesthetic. In fact, Sheeler reduces Chartres from sublime Go thic archticture to something picturesque. In the end, a pictorial essay for the Chartres photographs seemed best and included were various quotations from Sheeler's own private papers.
Hopefully, we will all leave Sheeler's photographs with a sense of mission. They call us to take up academic arms against the decontextualization of American culture and the subsequent reduction of it to mere aesthetic value. Though American society is built on a foundation of myths, photography, by its immediate nature, can portray or support these myths and, thus, can lead us from what is real about our national narrative. Photography along the lines of Sheeler's even more calls into question the rea l versus the fake and, most importantly, his photographs authenticate myths by reducing them to pleasurable artistic value.