Berenice Abbott

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Nightview, New York, Berenice Abbott
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Berenice Abbott is widely regarded as one of the most important American documentary photographers of the twentieth century. She began her career as a photojournalist in Europe in the 1920s, working alongside Man Ray and other members of the Parisian avant-garde. Returning to America for the remainder of her life, she dedicated her career to photographing the changing face of modern America.

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Artist Biography

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) was an American photographer and artist known for her striking black-and-white photographs of New York City and its architecture. Born in Springfield, Ohio, she studied journalism at Ohio State University before moving to New York City in 1918.

Her early career was spent in Paris, where she became acquainted with Eugène Atget, a leading figure in photography in the early twentieth century. Returning to America in 1929, Abbott noted the significant changes to New York’s urban landscape. In 1935, she received a commission from the Federal Art Project to document New York City’s changing architecture. This resulted in the publication of her book Changing New York, which contains 97 of her photographs of the city’s buildings, streets, and neighbourhoods. The photobook has become one of the most important in the history of the documentary photography genre, and a testament to the importance of preserving historic buildings and urban spaces.

Abbott also made significant contributions to scientific photography, including her work on high-speed photography and her collaboration with MIT physicist Harold Edgerton on stroboscopic photography. In the 1950s and 1960s, she turned to teaching and became an influential instructor at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She was also known for her portraits of important figures in the art world, such as James Joyce, Jean Cocteau, and Marcel Duchamp.

Her work has been displayed in solo exhibitions at museums such as New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Modern Art.  

© Berenice Abbott/Getty Images, Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York


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