Abbott, Berenice

Abbott, Berenice

(bĕr'ənēs`), 1898–1991, American photographer, b. Springfield, Ohio. Abbott turned from sculpture to photography in 1923. She was assistant to Man RayRay, Man,
1890–1976, American photographer, painter, and sculptor, b. Philadelphia. Along with Marcel Duchamp, Ray was a founder of the Dada movement in New York and Paris. He is celebrated for his later surrealist paintings and photography.
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 in Paris (1923–25), where she made an extraordinary series of portraits of the artistic and literary celebrities of the 1920s. She began her great documentation of New York City in 1929; many of the best photographs were collected in her book Changing New York (1939). In 1958, she produced a stunningly beautiful set of photographs for a high-school physics text that some critics consider her finest work. She discovered the work of Eugène AtgetAtget, Eugène
, 1857–1927, French photographer. After working as a sailor and then as an actor for many years, Atget became a photographer at the age of 42. He began at once to produce his detailed visual record of Paris and its environs, particularly St.
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 in 1925 and labored successfully to secure him international recognition.

Bibliography

See her Photographs (1970).

Abbott, Berenice

(1898–1991) photographer; born in Springfield, Ohio. After a short time at Ohio State University (1917–18) and a few weeks at Columbia University in New York City (1918), she took up the study of drawing and sculpture in New York City (1918–21), Paris (1921–23—partially under Antoine Bourdelle), and Berlin (1923). Back in Paris she became an assistant to the photographer, Man Ray (1923–25), and then opened her own portrait studio (1926–29); one of her best-known portraits was of James Joyce. Meanwhile, she had discovered the work of Eugene Atget (1857–1927), the French photographer known for his semidocumentary studies of cityscapes and activities in Paris and its suburbs; on his death she acquired his archives and thereafter promoted his work. She went back to New York City and worked as an independent documentary and portrait photographer (1929–68); she occasionally did commissions for Fortune and other magazines, but became best known for the series she did for the Federal Art Project (under the Works Progress Administration), a thorough and sensitive documentation of Manhattan during the 1930s, published as Changing New York (1939). In 1940 she turned to a new subject, capturing in photographs such scientific phenomena as magnetism, gravity, and motion; some of her work was used to illustrate high school physics texts. She also taught photography at the New School for Social Research (1935–68). Her final major projects included photographing a series on rural California and U.S. Route 1 from Maine to Florida. In 1968 she moved up to Maine where she worked until near her death.