Our Art / Eugène Atget

Eugène Atget

Eugène Atget

A private, almost reclusive man, Atget (1857–1927) first tried his hand at painting and acting before beginning to photograph. He never called himself a photographer, instead he preferred "author-producer." He photographed architecture and urban views, but supported himself by selling these photographs to painters as studies. Atget carried a large-format view camera, by then outdated and unwieldy, through the streets and gardens of Paris. Many of these photographs of storefronts and public spaces in nineteenth-century Paris and Versailles were demolished soon afterward to make way for rapid urbanization.

Though Atget was not well known during his lifetime, his visual record of a vanishing world has become an inspiration for twentieth-century photographers. American expatriate photographers Man Ray and Berenice Abbott rescued his work from obscurity just before his death. Many existing prints of Atget's images were, in fact, made by Abbott in the 1930s from his negatives.