Architectual Photography

Changing New York... photography of New York City by Berenice Abbott.

“I came over on a visit and I was just smitten with New York, 1929; the beginning of it. And I was crazy about it. It changed a great deal and in this change was tremendous dynamism; it was just dynamic as anything. It was not as any other city in the world. It was very exciting and that’s what prompted me to photograph it.” – Berenice Abbott


In 1929, Abbott returned to New York City for a visit. She was struck by the bustling, transforming city and inspired by Atget’s photographic record of his Paris, she decided to record her city in its transformation, devoting Wednesday nights to explore the city. Despite her sound reputation and growing popularity in Paris, Abbott brought her portrait studio to New York. Unfortunately, her success with the portrait studio in France did not carry into the United States and finances became a threat to her New York City project.


By 1933, all of Abbott’s appeals to fund her new endeavor had been rejected, but Abbott had started to gain recognition and admiration for her New York City photographs. Her photographs began to be exhibited; first at the Museum of Modern Art, and then in 1932, at the opening of the Museum of the City of New York. In 1935, Abbott applied to the Federal Arts Project, or FAP. This application was strongly supported by I. N. Phelps Stokes who, as a well-respected collector of American historical prints, was able to recognize the artistic and documentary importance of Abbott’s New York City project.


Abbott experienced two new beginnings in the autumn of 1935; both a commitment from the FAP (providing funding, a small staff, and a used car) and the beginning of her career as a photography teacher at the New School for Social Research. Teaching photography became a large part of Abbott's life; she taught at this school until 1958,and used her knowledge of teaching and photography to publish a book on how to take better photographs in 1941, entitled New Guide to Better Photography.

     When Abbott received funding from the FAP, she was ecstatic, saying in a later interview; “The Federal Arts Project certainly was not an ideal way to do [Changing New York], however it was one of the happiest moments of my life when I got the project because it meant I could concentrate on that now.” With this funding, Abbott was able to devote herself to her New York project full time, and her popularity grew. In late 1937, she produced a solo exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York of her New York City prints and two years later, Changing New York (a collection with much of her New York City photography) was published. After this success, FAP concluded the project and stopped funding Abbott. She lost her staff, equipment and salary, and was no longer able to photograph her city.

"Broadway to the Battery"  
 Berenice Abbott


                                                             "Christopher and Bleeker Streets"
                                                             Berenice Abbott
"Triborogh Bridge"
Berenice Abbott


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