Abbott and Atget

Abbott's "responsibility" and dedication.

“It was my responsibility and I had to do it. I thought he was great and his work should be saved.” – Berenice Abbott


In addition to introducing Abbott to photography and Paris, Man Ray also introduced her to the photography of Eugène Atget. Abbott was so astounded with the photographs Atget had taken of the architecture, streets and gardens of Paris during 1899 that she felt compelled to show his work to the world. Just days before he died, Abbott made the only existing portraits of this now celebrated photographer made famous by the dedication of Abbott to promote his work, largely after his death in 1927. She helped to publish many books commemorating his work including The World of Atget in 1964.


Abbot, with Atget’s influence, joined the straight photography movement, which believed in photography being unaltered in both subject and during developing. Abbott expresses this belief when she says, “I think all photography is documentary, or it isn’t even photography. Most photographs are documents by their very nature of the realistic image. When they try to make it a non-realistic image, they are imitating another medium. Therefore, you must be mighty careful of your subject. Selectivity is the key. I simply think you have to express your subject if it’s worth expressing, if it’s not a tried subject.” 


Many believe that Abbott, with Atget’s prints introduced a new technique to American photography. This is the belief of Maria Morris Hambourg from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC: “Abbott brought us the option, which she had identified in Atget’s art, of making straight-forward, carefully composed, emotionally resonant pictures of ordinary things and making those into something as meaningful as any great art… this was an enormous gift to American photography.”

Atget’s passion inspired Abbott and his photographs inspired her next photographic phase: Changing New York.  

Eugene Atget




   "Coin de la Rue Valette et Pantheon"
   Eugene Atget



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