Berenice Abbott


Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991)

Man Ray’s studio became something of a centre for young people interested in photography in Paris. One person who came to the studio in the early 1920s was Berenice Abbott whose acquaintance Man Ray had made prior to going to Paris. Abbott had come to Paris to study sculpture and she worked as an assistant to Man Ray to finance her studies. But she became more and more interested in photography. Man Ray introduced her to Eugène Atget and she made some exquisite portraits of the old photographer. Atget never saw the photographs since he died only a few days after the session. Berenice Abbott organised a search for photographs by Atget and, after much labour, she discovered many positives and negatives. She managed to purchase these and took them with her to the USA where they are now part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art. Atget’s photographs appear in other collections, including that of the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. Inspired by Atget’s photographs of Paris, Berenice Abbott later started to photograph New York. She became one of the finest interpreters of that city and she passed on much of her expertise to a young photographer named Walker Evans. He later photographed people on the New York subway and was an important collaborator on the FSA (Farm Security Administration) project that documented how Americans lived during the Depression in connection to a Federal reform. (Moderna Museet)