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|Birth name||Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget|
|Born||2 February 1857
|Died||4 August 1927
|Spouse||Valentine Delafosse Compagnon|
|Influenced||Robert Doisneau, Lee Friedlander, Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott|
An inspiration for the surrealists and other artists, his work gained wide attention only after his death.
Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne. His father, carriage builder Jean-Eugène Atget, died in 1862, and his mother, Clara-Adeline Atget née Hourlier died shortly after. He was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Bordeaux and after finishing secondary education joined the merchant navy.
Atget moved to Paris in 1878. He failed the entrance exam for acting class but was admitted when he had a second try. Because he was drafted for military service he could attend class only part-time, and he was expelled from drama school.
Still living in Paris he became an actor with a travelling group, performing in the Paris suburbs and the provinces. He met actress Valentine Delafosse Compagnon, who became his companion until her death. He gave up acting because of an infection of his vocal chords in 1887, moved to the provinces and took up painting without success. His first photographs, of Amiens and Beauvais, date from 1888.
Starting 1898 institutions such as the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris bought his photographs. The latter commissioned him ca. 1906 to systematically photograph old buildings in Paris. 1899 he moved to Montparnasse.
While being a photographer Atget still also called himself an actor, giving lectures and readings.
1920-1921 he sold thousands of his negatives to institutions. Financially independent he took up photographing the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux and produced a series of photographs of prostitutes.
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Atget picked up photography in the late 1880s, around the time that photography was experiencing unprecedented expansion in both commercial and amateur fields. Atget would go on to enter the commercial field with his photos; he sold photos of landscapes, flowers, and other pleasantries to other artists. It wasn’t until 1897 that Atget started a project he would continue for the rest of his life—his Old Paris collection.
Between 1897 and 1927 Atget captured the old Paris in his pictures. His photographs show the city in its various facets: narrow lanes and courtyards in the historic city center with its old buildings, of which some were soon to be demolished, magnificent palaces from the period before the French Revolution, bridges and quays on the banks of the Seine, and shops with their window displays. He photographed stairwells and architectural details on the façades and took pictures of the interiors of apartments. His interest also extended to the environs of Paris.
In addition to architecture and the urban environment, he also photographed street-hawkers, small tradesmen, rag collectors and prostitutes, as well as fairs and popular amusements in the various districts. The outlying districts and peripheral areas, in which the poor and homeless sought shelter, also furnished him with pictorial subjects.
Distinguishing characteristics of Atget's photography include a wispy, drawn-out sense of light due to his long exposures, a fairly wide view that suggested space and ambiance more than surface detail, and an intentionally limited range of scenes avoiding the bustling modern Paris that was often around the corner from the nostalgia-steeped nooks he preferred. The emptiness of most of his streets and the sometimes blurred figures in those with people are partly due to his already antiquated technique, including extended exposure times which required that many of his images be made in the early morning hours before pedestrians and traffic appeared.
The mechanical vignetting often seen at some corners of his photographs is due to his having repositioned the lens relative to the plate on the camera—exploiting one of the features of bellows view cameras as a way to correct perspective and control the image. He often said, "I have done little justice to the Great City of Paris", as a comment on his career.
Atget's photographs attracted the attention of artists such as Man Ray, André Derain, Henri Matisse and Picasso in the 1920s. May Ray not only purchased a number of Atget's photographs but used During the Eclipse, for the cover of his surrealist magazine la Révolution surréaliste. When he asked Atget if he could use his photo he said:′ "Don't put my name on it. These are simply documents I make." Man Ray said that Atget's pictures of staircases, doorways, ragpickers and especially those with window reflections and mannequins had a Dada or Surrealist quality about them. Man Ray not only was a neighbor of Atget, they lived on the same street, but he offered to lend him his modern Rolleiflex camera but Atget refused preferring to use the older techniques.
His death went largely unnoticed at the time outside the circle of curators who had bought his albums and kept them interred, mostly unseen. "This enormous artistic and documentary collection is now finished", he wrote of his life's work in 1920, though he did not stop working at this point.
Most of Atget's work was published only after his death by Berenice Abbott in the U.S. and the Getty Center. Abbott published in 1964 a book with prints she made from Atget's negatives: The World of Atget. Another publication was Berenice Abbott and Eugene Atget, (containing many previously unpublished prints). The U.S. Library of Congress has some 20 prints made by Abbott in 1956 and state that there was probably no copyright on these particular prints in their collection.
All works of Atget should have publication information. According to the statement of the U.S. Library of Congress, Atget's works are technically orphan work]]s: the U.S. publications by Abbott would make them probably U.S. works, and it is unknown who would own that copyright. Abbott clearly has a copyright on the selection and arrangement of his photographs in her books. If treated as French works, the copyright on Atget's photos may have been restored by the URAA since Atget's work was still copyrighted in France in 1996, but again it's unknown who would own such a restored copyright.
Atget never said, or wrote, “anything about his own work; no statements of intention, no aesthetic positions.” Some people believe that “while Atget's focus on [his] subject[s] may have been genuinely motivated by a passion for the history and traditions of the historic neighborhoods, public interest in preservation served to make Atget's enterprise commercially viable.” Even so, it seems the consensus among various historians, artists, and authors is that Atget wanted to “document the old city before its destruction came at the hands of the modernizers” and “his objective was to document old Paris at a time when its buildings were being systematically destroyed.” Whatever his intentions, Atget's photos served as a benchmark for modern photography.
After Atget's death in 1927, his remaining archive was split. 2000 negatives were donated to a Paris institute, with the remainder bought by Berenice Abbott with financial support by Julien Levy.
Berenice Abbott exhibited, printed and wrote about his work, as well as assembled a substantial archive of writings about his portfolio by herself and others. Abbott published Atget, Photographe de Paris in 1930, the first overview of his photographic oeuvre and the beginning of his international fame.
The Museum of Modern Art purchased the Abbott/Levy collection of Atget's work in 1968. In 1985, MoMA completed publication of a four-volume series of books based on its four successive exhibitions about Atget's life and work.
Notes and references
- Paris: pp. 240-246
- Photographers A-Z: p. 17
- 12 Rue des Beaux-Arts
- 5 Rue de la Pitié
- 17bis Rue Campagne-Première
- Hambourg, Maria M. "THE COLLECTION." MoMA.org. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.
- Barberie, Peter. "Looking at Atget" (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2005) p53-56
- Note reflection of Atget's tripod and camera covered by a black cloth. Paris:p. 168
- Paris, p. 248: this image appeared on the front of La Révolution surréaliste no. 7, 15 June 1926
- "In Focus: Eugène Atget (Getty Bookstore)". Getty.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- The World of Atget Horizon Press, New York 1964
- Berenice Abbott and Eugene Atget, Arena Editions, Santa Fe 2002, ISBN 1892041634
- "Eugene Atget - Rights and Restrictions Information (Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress)". Loc.gov. 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Hughes, Robert. "Images from Old France." Time Magazine Nov.-Dec. 1981: n. pag. Web. 15 Jan. 2013.
- Davis, Douglas. "The Picasso of Photography." Newsweek 98 (1981): 88-89. Print.
- FABRIKANT, GERALDINE. "Paris That Awoke to Atget's Lens." Editorial. The New York Times 3 Oct. 2012, Cultured Traveler sec.: 8. Log in. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.
- Figures are inconclusive as to how much Abbott acquired. Paris, p. 246: 1300 negatives and 5000 prints. Photographers A-Z, p. 17: 7800 negatives, 1400 prints.
- See Peter Barr's PhD dissertation "Becoming Documentary: Berenice Abbott's Photographs 1925-1939" (Boston University, 1997). Also: Berenice Abbott & Eugène Atget by Clark Worswick.
- quoted in Paris, p. 22
- Atget, Eugène (1930). Atget, Photographe de Paris.
- Badger, Gerry. "Eugene Atget: A Vision of Paris." British Journal of Photography 123, no 6039 (Apr. 23, 1976): 344-347.
- Barberie, Peter. "Looking at Atget" (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2005) 53-56
- Barbin, Pierre. Colloque Atget (Paris: Collège de France, 1986).
- Buerger, Janet E. The Era of the French Calotype (New York: International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, 1982).
- Buisine, Alain. Eugene Atget ou la melancolie en photographie (Nîmes: Editions Jacqueline Chambon, 1994).
- Koetzle, Hans-Michael (2011). Photographers A-Z. Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8365-1109-4.
- Kozloff, Max. "Abandoned and Seductive: Atget's Streets." The Privileged Eye: Essays on Photography (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987).
- Krase, Andreas. "Archive of Visions – Inventory of Things: Eugene Atget's Paris."
- Krase, Andreas; Adam, Hans Christian (2008) . Paris: Eugène Atget. Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8365-0471-3.
- Leroy, Jean. Atget: Magicien du vieux Paris en son époque (Paris: P.A.V., 1992).
- Nesbit, Molly. Atget's Seven Albums (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).
- Reynaud, Françoise. Les voitures d’Atget au musee Carnavalet (Paris: Editions Carre, 1991).
- Rice, Shelley. Parisian Views (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997).
- Russell, John, "Atget", The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1981.
- Szarkowski, John. Atget (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2000).
- Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hamburg. The Work of Atget: Volume 1, Old France (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1981).
- Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hamburg. The Work of Atget: Volume 2, The Art of Old Paris (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1982).
- Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hamburg. The Work of Atget: Volume 3, The Ancien Régime (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983).
- Szarkowski, John and Maria Morris Hamburg. The Work of Atget: Volume 4, Modern Times (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1985).
- Atget, Eugène; Wiegand, Wilfried (1998). Eugène Atget: Paris. New York: te Neues Publishing. ISBN 978 3823803638.
- The World of Atget, 1964.
- Atget's Gardens: A Selection of Eugene Atget's Garden Photographs, 1979.
- Eugene Atget: A Selection of Photographs from the Collection of Musee Carnavalet, Paris, 1985.
- Atget's Seven Albums (Yale Publications in the History of Art), 1993.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Eugène Atget|
- Eugène Atget at the Museum of Modern Art
- Atget collection at George Eastman House
- Eugène Atget at Luminous Lint
- Eugene Atget and Haunted Paris: Trees, Parks and Architecture
- Atget's Portfolio at Photography-now
- Rauschenberg rephotographs, a project to reconstruct some of Atget's photographs nearly 100 years later
- "PHOTOGRAPHY VIEW; EUGENE ATGET-HIS ART BRIDGED TWO CENTURIES," New York Times, March 10, 1985
- Bibliothèque numérique INHA - Fonds photographique Eugène Atget de l'ENSBA