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Eugène Atget

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At this late date, in an age when seemingly every significant photograph of the past 150 years has been anthologized and analyzed, how many major 20th-century photographers can possibly remain under the radar of both the general public and photography aficionados? How many discoveries of unknown, genuinely great photographers can we possibly expect?

A show of pictures made by Russian-born Roman Vishniac, opening Jan. 18 at New York’s International Center of Photography, answers both questions with an emphatic, at least one.

It should be noted at the very outset that Vishniac did not toil in utter obscurity. In fact, he has long been celebrated in the Jewish community for his empathetic and intimate documentation of shtetl life Central and Eastern Europe in the years prior to the rise of the Third Reich and the cataclysmic onset of the Second World War. One Vishniac book in particular, A Vanished World, has for decades held pride of place in countless Jewish homes — a secret history, of sorts, that at-once documents and partially mythologizes a cultural landscape that was all but wiped away by the Holocaust.

The ICP exhibition, meanwhile, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, will feature largely unpublished photos, with the stated aim not only of introducing Vishniac to an audience that knows little or nothing of his work, but of positioning him as one of the great social documentarians of the mid-20th century, whose pictures stand comparison with Cartier-Bresson or Eugene Atget.

According to ICP’s Maya Benton, who curated Rediscovered, Vishniac’s known body of work is really a narrow (albeit excellent) entry point to a much broader appreciation of his vast and varied archive. A mere one to two percent of his photos have ever been published, Benton points out, suggesting that the exhibition’s broad scope — including his work in photo microscopy, personal correspondence and other treasures — will be a revelation not only to the uninitiated, but to those who might have felt that they already knew all there was to know about the long-unheralded master.

Liz Ronk is the photo editor for LIFE.com.

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Though she went to Paris in 1921 to study sculpture, Berenice Abbott would transition to photography when she became Man Ray’s assistant in 1923. Three years later, she set up her own studio, photographing the French capital’s bohemians, artists and intellectuals—and famous friends such as writers James Joyce and Jean Cocteau—before moving back to the States in 1929.

For the next two decades, Abbott focused her lens on Depression-Era New York, producing a number of moving, black-and-white images that would become part of her book Changing New York. This series, along with nearly 120 other images, is being featured in a new exhibition at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Center called Berenice Abbott: Photographs.

“She was an underestimated photographer during her life and even today,” says Gaelle Morel, the exhibition’s curator and author of the accompanying book, Berenice Abbott. “But Berenice has this capacity of mixing different aesthetics, depending on the subject, which was really extraordinary. She can do a more modern, New Vision style when it came to photographing New York buildings, or take a more documentary approach for her portraits.”

Keystone-France / Getty Images

Berenice Abbot standing for a portrait, behind a view-camera, circa early 1900s

Abbott gained acclaim for her own comprehensive career, which would later involve photographic work on physics, commissioned by Boston’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But she also became famous for her staunch support of French photographer Eugène Atget, whom she met in 1925 while living in Paris. Atget died two years later, and it was Abbott who would photo-edit a book of his work and help stage an exhibition of his work in New York. She sold her Atget collection to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968.

“Berenice always said she had two careers—one of her own, and one championing Atget,” Morel says. “She wanted to be recognized as the Atget of New York, not necessarily his aesthetic, but his intellect.”

Berenice Abbott: Photographs, co-organized by The Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto and the Jeu de Paume in Paris, is on view through Aug. 19 at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario. The accompanying book is published by Editions Hazan and Yale University Press.

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© Leonard Misonne

© Eugene Atget

© Jules, Louis & Henri Seeberger

© Henri Cartier-Bresson

© Eli Lotar

© Eugene Atget

© Alvin Langdon Coburn

© Alvin Landon Coburn

© Brassaï

© Brassaï

© André Kertész

© Walker Evans

© Alvin Landon Coburn

© André Kertész

© Berenice Abbott

© Berenice Abbott

© Berenice Abbott

© Berenice Abbott

© Berenice Abbott

© André Kertész

© Izis Bidermanas

© Lee Friedlander

© Bruce Davidson

© Josef Koudelka

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“Eugène Atget: ‘Documents pour artistes,’” an exhibition of photographs by Atget that opened this week at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, takes its name from the sign outside Atget’s studio door. The sign underscored his humble intention to make “documents” that could be fodder for the creative output of other artists. Atget’s work to document the old Paris that was disappearing as it yielded to modernization began in the late 1880s and continued into the 1920s. Far from being a mere record-maker, Atget is remembered as a forerunner of modern art and photography, and was particularly admired by the surrealists. Man Ray lived down the street from Atget, but it was Bernice Abbott, an American photographer, who bought the contents of his studio when he died and brought the contents to MoMA. The current exhibition is the first extensive presentation of Atget’s oeuvre in 25 years and is accompanied by the rerelease of the book “Atget” by John Szarkowski. On view through April 9.


Marchand de paniers en fil de fer, 1899-1900. Albumen silver print. Eugène Atget, MoMA


Fête du Trône, 1925. Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print. Eugène Atget, MoMA


Avenue des Gobelins, 1925. Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print. Eugène Atget, MoMA


Parc de Sceaux, June 1925. Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print. Eugène Atget, MoMA


Romanichels, groupe, 1912. Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print. Eugène Atget, MoMA


Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, June 1925. Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print. Eugène Atget, MoMA

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Outside his studio in 19th-century Paris hung a sign that declared “documents pour artistes”—documents for artists—a statement that captured the modest intent of Eugène Atget. His legacy, the result of a career that spanned more than 30 years and nearly 8,500 photographs, is one of relentless curiosity, devout investigation and masterful craftsmanship. Drawing from its expansive collection of Atget’s work, the Museum of Modern Art in New York will present a selection of more than 100 images from Feb. 3 through April 9, as an exhibition titled with inspiration from the artist himself: Documents Pour Artistes.

The exhibition, which is divided into six sections, examines the various subjects the artist approached during his life. Atget is primarily known for his images of the streets of Paris, romantic landscapes and images of storefronts (which inspired Surrealists such as Man Ray and Tristan Tsara, although Atget denied any ties to the movement)—but, in this show, MoMA includes a refreshing display of his rare photographs of people, which are equal in their formal rigor and topographical, objective approach.

Atget’s approach is paradoxically both intimate and anonymous; despite having photographed seemingly every inch of the streets of Paris, from whole buildings to window displays, Atget never photographed the Eiffel Tower. His sense of dedication to detail, found in his street photographs, extends into his images from the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, from March and June of 1925. During this time, Atget took vast images of the serene landscapes, all while taking dutiful notes of times of day of the photographs, revealing his highly proximate relationship with documentation.

Drawing inspiration from Atget’s vision of objectivity for his photographs, it is perhaps best for viewers to develop a more personal relationship with his work, undistracted by the perceptions of the outside world. The scenes captured in Atget’s images cannot be adequately illustrated with words—luckily for us, he took pictures instead.

Documents Pour Artistes is on display from Feb. 3 through April 9 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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In an effort to bring the George Eastman House archive online, Dr. Anthony Bannon, Director at George Eastman House in Rochester New York,  has announced partnership with Clickworker, an international crowdsourcing company. The project involves photo-tagging of more than 400,000 images from the George Eastman House, one of the world’s oldest photography museums. Using a guided and tiered tagging system, Clickworker hopes to bring the Eastman archive into the digital age, making the photographs accessible to the public — in many instances, for the very first time. To get these images online, Clickworker is using its global crowd of paid “clickworkers’, more than 115,000 strong.

People who register to work on the project as “clickworkers’ will also be able to see the results of their work just a short while later on the Eastman House licensing website. Among the images from the venerable George Eastman House archive are classic favorites like views of Paris by Eugene Atget and immigration photos by Lewis Hine–but among are some surprises, like the Hippo Back, Hippo Front photographs by Lewis Hine, and the electric portrait of Judy Garland by Nickolas Muray.


Nickolas Muray, American (b. Hungary, 1892-1965) Judy Garland. 1945 Color print, assembly (Carbro) process.


Lewis Hine, Empire State Building construction worker touching the top of the Chrysler building, 1930. Gelatin Silver Print.
Hine was commissioned to photograph construction of the Empire State Building in May 1930. He photographed construction workers, following them up into the sky as the building rose to its height of 102 stories, the tallest building ever erected at that time.


Lewis Hine, Hippo Back.


Lewis Hine, Hippo Front.


Eugene Atget, (1857-1927) Avenue de l’Observatoire, 1926. Silver printing-out paper print.


Lewis Hine, Immigration.


Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Octopus, 1912. Gelatin silver print.

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Prostitute at angle of Rue de la Reynie and Rue Quincampoix, 1933

Brassai with Tony Ray-Jones, Creative Camera, April, 1970

Tony Ray-Jones: How did you start your life?

Brassai: I was born in Transylvania in 1899. My father was a teacher of French literature. He lived in Paris and loved it and studied at the Sorbonne. When I was five my father brought me and my family to Paris for a year. I

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Zoniers, Porte de Choisy, 1913By Stephen Longmire, Afterimage, May 2001It has been 20 years, amazingly enough, since New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) launched its landmark cycle of exhibitions of the work of French photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927), who spent his last 30 years documenting the architectural record of Paris and its surroundings at the beginning of the last century.

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