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The Unknown Berenice Abbott

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Berenice Abbott was one of the most versatile photographic artists of the twentieth century and her work has been published and publicized since the beginning of her career in 1925. She is best known for her Paris portraits of the 1920s and her documentation of New York City in the 1930s but, like most great artists, Abbott’s reputation has rested on a small portion of her life’s work. For every time one of her most famous photographs has been published there are many others that could have served the same purpose but were not used because they are less well known.
In Abbott’s case there is an unusually large body of unknown work because during the most potentially creative time of her life, the circumstances of her existence were very complicated, largely due to lack of work and income, particularly between the years 1929 to 35 and 1940 to 1959. Many of the photographs she did manage to create in those years were not sufficiently commercial to attract a publisher and she was financially unable to publicize them on her own, develop a project to its natural conclusion or, in some instances, even undertake a project of interest. The Unknown Abbott attempts to correct this situation and make some of Abbott’s outstanding but largely unknown work available to a wider public.
Gerhard Steidl had published the two volume Berenice Abbott in 2008 and Documenting Science in 2012. These books are currently out of print but are going to be reissued by Steidl in the near future. Steidl met with the editors Hank O’Neal and Ron Kurtz in late January 2011 to discuss future Abbott projects. This was when they began thinking of a series of Abbott books, dealing with various aspects of her career. Hank O’Neal and Ron Kurtz have chosen to present five volumes of work, ranging from her earliest photographs in New York City to documents of American cities before the Civil War, vigorous lumberjacks in California’s High Sierra Mountains, the sophisticated bohemia of Greenwich Village as well as the amusements of Daytona Beach.
The Unknown Abbott is a very ambitious project that will present hundreds of outstanding Abbott images for the first time. Her reputation is already very secure, but these previously unknown images will further clarify the range of her photographic
activity beyond her portraits in Paris, Changing New York and Documenting Science.


Titel: The Unknown Berenice Abbott
Autoren/Herausgeber: Berenice Abbott
Ausgabe: 1. Auflage

ISBN/EAN: 9783869306506

Seitenzahl: 1.244
Format: 31,5 x 29,5 cm
Produktform: Hardcover/Gebunden
Sprache: Englisch

Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1898. After a difficult childhood she spent one semester at Ohio State
University in 1917 before beginning a new life in New York City in 1918. She soon became part of the artistic community in that city and, after many false starts, became an American in Paris where she began to explore photography in 1923, as an assistant to her friend Man Ray. Within a year she was taking her own photographs. Her first one-woman show was a success in 1926 and for the next 65 years she was a dominant figure in American photography, mastering every aspect of the medium. Abbott’s monumental project, Changing New York, the unique way in which she linked science, natural phenomena and art in photography and establishing the reputation of Eugène Atget are but three highlights of her extraordinary career.
Abbott returned to New York in 1929. 1935 was an important year in her career. In that year she photographed rural America on her own, producing a body of work similar to the best of the Farm Security Administration photographers, officially undertook her Changing New York project under the auspices of the Federal Arts Project and founded the photography department at The New School in New York City, where she continued to teach until the late 1950s.
The publication of Changing New York brought the project to a close in 1939 and Abbott embarked on a new photographic endeavor, Documenting Science, as well as compiling A Guide To Better Photography, perhaps the finest overall photography guide ever written by a major American photographer. The book, published in 1941, remained in print for many years and was constantly updated. A revised New Guide to Better Photography appeared in 1953. The documentation of science was Abbott’s focus for two decades, between the years 1940 and 1960. Her pursuit of scientific photography culminated in three years of work with the Physical Science Study Committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1959 to 1961, during which she produced hundreds of remarkable photographs of natural phenomena that were not only scientifically accurate but were exceptional works of art.
During this period she also undertook other photographic projects, notably the little known U.S. 1 trip in 1954 that took
her from northern Maine to southern Florida on that famous American highway, compiled and wrote The World of Atget (1964), and finally, in 1968, after forty years of promoting and printing the work of the French master, transferred the Atget Collection to the Museum of Modern Art.
She “retired” to Maine in 1966 but remained active for the next twenty-five years, producing many portfolios of her photographs, working on book projects, organizing and supervising exhibitions, printing her work, training interns and, when it was appropriate, occasionally undertaking a new photographic project. She died at her lakeside home in 1991, with the knowledge that her accomplishments in the field of photography were more wide-ranging than any of her contemporaries.’ - Newsletter
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