The Unknown Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott (Photographer)
October 15, 2013
15.3 X 8.0 X 14.2 inches | 29.6 pounds
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About the Author
Berenice Abbott was a pioneer of documentary photography. A tireless proponent of realism, she achieved distinction within several genres of photography, over successive periods of her career. In France in the 1920s she assisted Man Ray in his portrait studio before setting out on her own. Her distinctive portraits made during the '20s captured artists in Paris with a timeless dignity. Her subjects included photographer Eugène Atget, whose reputation today results from Abbott's recognition and advocacy of his work. Moving back to New York in 1929, she immersed herself for a decade in documenting the city, publishing Changing New York in 1939. These became the photographs for which she is best known and loved. She went on to develop a serious interest in the documentation and visualizing of scientific phenomena, including as picture editor for Science Illustrated. For her last series, on U.S. Route 1, and Maine, Abbott returned to a more traditional documentary language. Abbott died in Monson, Maine, in 1991.
The more we see of Abbott's oeuvre, the more we realize that while its space is expansive, its scale (even when picturing a cluster of skyscrapers or ponderosa pines) is against grandness. Her photographs locate a visual detail at work in the world, and let it slowly activate an ordinary scene, whether it's the shadow of a building, falling hard and flat against another, or the synchronous expression in the eyes of a birdsmith and his dog.--Prudence Peiffer "Bookforum "