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Established 1981



 

Berenice Abbott

American, 1898-1991


Berenice Abbott Photography

Berenice Abbott Exhibition

In 1918, Berenice Abbott went to New York City to study sculpture. By 1921 she had become disenchanted with New York and she left for Europe where she spent time in Paris and Berlin. She worked for Man Ray in Paris as a darkroom assistant and soon established a reputable career as a portrait photographer. In 1929 she returned to New York for a visit and was "seized by a fantastic passion" to photograph the city and she stayed for 10 years.

During the eight years that Berenice Abbott had been away New York had undergone major changes. New skyscrapers were replacing older buildings and the city was changing daily. Berenice Abbott slowly moved away from taking portraits of people and began photographing New York City itself. She was having difficulty supporting herself and tried to get financial support for the project she called Changing New York. She spent several years trying to get funding and all the while she kept photographing the city she loved. Berenice Abbott finally found support in 1935, from the Federal Art Project, a small part of the Works Progress Administration which was a federal government organization which funded a number of arts projects during the 1930s. The Federal Art Project was a relief agency for artist and it's goal was to show that art contributed to the general welfare of the population.

The project, Changing New York, took place between 1935 and 1939. During this time Berenice Abbott strove to capture the elements of change and contrast in her photographs of the city. She wished to "show the skyscraper in relation to the less colossal edifices which preceded it..the past jostling the present." She concentrated on Manhattan and then secondly on Brooklyn and the Bronx. She also took a few photographs of Queens and Staten Island. Berenice Abbott received an unexpected amount of publicity over the project and in 1937 the Museum of the City of New York, who also sponsored the project, exhibited 110 of Changing New York's best photographs. In 1939 E.P. Dutton & Co. published a book entitled Changing New York which reproduces 97 of Berenice Abbott's photographs. The book has remained a classic photography book through out the 20th century. Berenice Abbott's images capture the essence of Depression-era New York and make her one of America's leading photographers of our time.


Bibliography:

  • Cheryl Finley, Berenice Abbott, New York: Commerce Graphics Ltd., Inc., 1988.
  • Lee Gallery, Berenice Abbott: Vintage Photographs of New York from the 1930‘s, Winchester, MA: Lee Gallery, September 1999.
  • Chenoweth Hall, Berenice Abbott: A Portrait of Maine, New York: Macmillan, 1968.
  • Elizabeth McCausland, New York in the Thirties, as Photographed by Berenice Abbott, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1939.
  • Janine A. Mileaf, Constructing Modernism: Berenice Abbott and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Middletown, CT: Davison Art Center, 1993.
  • Hank O’Neal, Berenice Abbott: American Photographer, Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1982.
  • Muriel Rukeyser, David Vestal, Berenice Abbott Photographs, Norwich, UK: Horizon Press, 1970.
  • Julia Van Haaften, Berenice Abbott, Photographer: A Modern Vision, New York: The New York Public Library, 1989.
  • Bonnie Yochelson, Berenice Abbott: Changing New York, New York: The New Press, 1997.

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