Berenice Abbott's first photographic experience.
“It’s exhausting to take a portrait of somebody. You turn yourself inside out to really get through to this image. You can’t just snap one after another. You’d be doing it mechanically then.” – Berenice Abbott
Back in Paris in 1925, Abbott met up with Man Ray, a friend from New York and learning that he wished to hire a darkroom assistant who knew nothing about photography (and therefore would do as he said), she convinced him to give her a chance - even though she was a woman.
Abbott learned the darkroom techniques quickly and developed a keen photographic eye and judgment; “I took to it so readily, and so naturally, that he was amazed and I was amazed.” Abbott began to take her own portrait photographs in Man Ray’s studio and soon gained incredible popularity; rivaling her mentor and setting up an independent studio.
According to biographer Sylvia Beach, “To be ‘done’ by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott meant you rated as somebody”. The popularity of her portraits has been largely attributed to the great subtlety of her photography, as she allowed the personality of the person she photographed to come out in the portrait, particularly in her portraits of women.