American photographer Berenice Abbott’s (1898-1991) oeuvre will feature in an upcoming retrospective at Paris’ Jeu de Paume, the first-ever posthumous exhibit dedicated to this 20th century artist in France…though this is hardly the photographer’s first ‘trip’ to Paris. Abbott arrived on French shores at the beginning of the 1920s, studying first under Man Ray as a darkroom assistant before opening her own studio. She quickly assimilated into the avant-garde scene of the era, developing a signature portrait style throughout the decade featuring subjects ranging from writers Djuna Barnes and James Joyce to artists like Max Ernst and Jean Cocteau, also snapping an iconic portrait of Chanel herself in 1927.
Inspired by the work of French photographer Eugène Atget, who photographed Paris and its environs from the 1890s until his death in 1927, Abbott moved to New York City in 1929 and set about diligently documenting every nook and architectural cranny of the City that Never Sleeps. In 1935, she was hired by the American Government to continue in this same vein under the FAP, or Federal Art Program, and her photographs of the city from 1935-1939 became the subject of a book, Changing New York, first published in 1939 and still in print.
Her later photographs of East Coast America in the 1950s, as well as a series of instructive photos on the mechanics of light (done in a similar aesthetic vein to Man Ray’s photograms of the1920s) commissioned for MIT will also figure into the exhibition.