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In this day and age, we've pretty much taken photography for granted as an integral part of everyday life. There is the immediacy of Polaroids and the limitlessness of disposable cameras, which make a picture taken today a distant cousin to the practice of early photography. Occasionally we need reminding of the roots of photographic image-making, the glass plates, hand-coated emulsion, and massive amounts of other accouterments that were needed to make one image. In Atget, a selection from the lifetime work of legendary French photographer Eugène Atget (1857-1927), we enter the world of early-20th-century photography, which was beginning to bid farewell to the handcrafted picture.
Atget was poised on the cusp between the techniques and materials of early photography and the moment things began to change and modern photography was born. From a laborious and time-consuming process came a much faster method that changed the nature of photography forever. Seemingly overnight, the photograph went from being a precious object to something on its way to being accessible to all. Atget was among the first generation to photographically capture the world of ordinary citizens. While the subject matter was new, he was nevertheless steeped in the tradition of the old-world photograph. A crooked door knocker is captured with loving attention to detail, an air of preciousness still present. Spindly trees, store windows, public gardens--each picture is delicate and romantic. It makes you wonder if absolutely everything was more beautiful in France. Included in the book are insightful commentaries for each of the 100 tritone photographs and five duotones, plus a great introduction by John Szarkowski, former director of the Department of Photography at the MOMA. --J.P. Cohen
From Library Journal
Eugène Atget was a commercial photographer who spent 30 years producing more than 8000 pictures of Paris and its surrounding countryside before his death in 1927, when American photographer Berenice Abbott purchased his archives. Though he was unknown during his lifetime, his place in photography continues to grow; at times, he seems to be the Gallic brother of Walker Evans. Was Atget's aim to produce a kind of travel guide to a part of France he revered or to capture the elegance of places,... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This superbly reproduced volume presents the essence of the work of the great French photographer, EugFne Atget, in one hundred carefully selected photographs. John Szarkowski, an acknowledged master of the art of looking at photographs, explores in this book the unique sensibilities that made Atget one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century and a vital influence on the development of modern and contemporary photography. Szarkowski's eloquent introductory text and commentaries form an extended essay on the remarkable visual intelligence displayed in these subtle, sometimes enigmatic pictures.
Atget was a commercial photographer who devoted more then thirty years of his life to the task of documenting the city of Paris, its environs, and the French countryside in more than eight thousand photographs. In the process, he created an oeuvre that brilliantly explains the great richness, complexity, and authentic character of his native culture. His uncompromising eye recorded the picturesque villages and landscape of France; the storied chateaux and the romantic parks and gardens of the ancien rTgime of Louis XIV; and, in Paris, architectural details, private courtyards, quaint shop windows, curious buildings and streets, and various denizens of the urban scene of his times. Atget died almost unknown in 1927, although groups of his prints were included in various Paris archives. In 1925 the young American artist Berenice Abbott had discovered his work, and after his death she arranged to buy his archives with the help of art dealer Julien Levy; in 1968 that collection was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art.