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Artists Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott Photo

Berenice Abbott

American Artist

Movement: Straight Photography

Born: July 17, 1898 - Springfield, Ohio

Died: December 9, 1991 - Monson, Maine

Berenice Abbott Timeline

Quotes

"I like this picture so well because it re-creates for me some of the feeling I got from the original scene - and that is the real test of any picture."
Berenice Abbott
"Half the fun of photography is fooling around, mixing solutions, playing with papers, exercising tangible authority over silent partners of photography - film, paper, chemicals."
Berenice Abbott
"Unless you see the subject first, you won't be able to force the camera...to see the picture for you. But if you have seen the picture with your flexible human vision, then you will be on the road to creating with the camera a vision equivalent to your own."
Berenice Abbott
"By going to France I found myself and my own country - I just sort of thank God for France - vive la France!"
Berenice Abbott
"The minute I touched New York, I had a burning desire to photograph this city of incredible contrasts, the city of stone needles and skyscrapers, the city that is never the same, but always changing - New York."
Berenice Abbott
"When I saw New York again, and stood in the dirty slush, I felt that here was the thing I had been wanting to do all my life."
Berenice Abbott
"I try to photograph the city without sentimentality or illusions. I want to show its contrasts and contradictions."
Berenice Abbott

"To me photography is a means, perhaps the best means of our age - of widening knowledge of our world. Photography is a method of education, for acquainting people of all ages and conditions with the truth about life today."

Synopsis

Berenice Abbott was an American photographer known for her portraits and documentary photographs which stressed the communicative, even educational value of the photographic print. She pursued a realist vision in recording history and her own historical experience in order to potentially affect change in her audience. Her photographs purposely facilitated the interaction and dialogue between the photographer, the photographic print, and the viewer. Abbott's realist approach to photography stems from her career as a portrait photographer in Paris as well as the influence of Eugène Atget's photographic realism. After eight years in Paris, Abbott moved to New York in 1929 to document the modern transformation of the city. The resulting book Changing New York (1935-1938) received critical acclaim and has continued to resonate to this day.

Key Ideas

For Abbott, the photographic image had to be honest, contingent, and objective to be communicative. In her own words, straight photography is: "precision in the rendering and definition of detail and materials, surfaces and textures; instantaneity of observation; acute and faithful presentation of what has actually existed in the external world at a particular time and place."
Abbott identified how photography, in particular science photography, could act as a friendly interpreter of the world to laymen and women. She accomplished this task through her photo book on Changing New York that summarized the city's modern transformation, and her science photography. Her ability to capture scientific subjects and endow them with popular appeal and scientific correctness enabled her to make physics visually comprehensible.
As collector and guardian of Eugène Atget photographic archive, Abbott performed her most significant task in preserving the legacy of this early modern photographer. She tirelessly promoted his work for more than forty years. And it is because of Abbott's efforts that Atget is still known today.

Biography

Berenice Abbott Photo

Childhood and Education

Bernice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio into a troubled lower middle-class family. She was the youngest of four children. When her parents broke up in 1900, Abbott was separated from her three older siblings. She was raised like an only child from age two until age twelve, when both sides of her family resettled in Cleveland, Ohio. Even then she hardly saw her father, who was a cement salesman in Cleveland. He provided neither guidance nor understanding.

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Berenice Abbott Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Berenice Abbott
Interactive chart with Berenice Abbott's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Man RayMan Ray
Eugène AtgetEugène Atget
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-LoringhovenBaroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Louis Lozowick

Personal Contacts

Robert C. Cooke
Julien LevyJulien Levy
Peggy GuggenheimPeggy Guggenheim
Elizabeth McCausland
Walker EvansWalker Evans

Movements

Documentary PhotographyDocumentary Photography
SurrealismSurrealism
DadaDada
Modern SculptureModern Sculpture
Modern Drawing

Influences on Artist
Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott
Years Worked: 1918 - 1991
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Douglas Levere
Man RayMan Ray
Thelma Wood

Personal Contacts

Julien LevyJulien Levy
Peggy GuggenheimPeggy Guggenheim
Elizabeth McCausland
John Storrs
Gerald Wendt

Movements

Modern PhotographyModern Photography
Science Photography
Modernism and Modern ArtModernism and Modern Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jessica DiPalma

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jessica DiPalma
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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