Photographer Profile ~ Eugène Atget

Eugène Atget was born in Libourne, France in 1857. His father died in 1862 and his mother shortly later. He went to live with his maternal grandparents in Bordeaux where he received his primary schooling. Atget worked as a sailor, actor, and painter before turning to photography at the age of 41. He was completely self-taught and made a meager living by selling photographs to architects, painters, stage designers and editors. He would photograph subjects that he thought would be the most useful for his clientele such as parks, streets, architectural details, vendors, farms and monuments.

Atget photographed Paris with a large-format wooden bellows camera with a rapid rectilinear lens. The images were exposed and developed as 18x24cm glass dry plates. In all, Atget created about 10,000 photographs of Paris and its surroundings. He received only one commission in his lifetime and that was to document the brothels of Paris. In 1926 Man Ray submitted a few of Atget's photographs to the periodical La Révolution Surréaliste, but they were not credited. He was a bit of an eccentric; from the age of 50, he lived solely on milk, bread, and pieces of sugar

Although today he is thought of as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, it was not until after his death in 1927 that his work became appreciated and this was due in large part to the efforts of photographer Berenice Abbott who helped to promote and preserve his work. Bernice Abbott said of Atget “He will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization” Today his work can be found in collections such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The Atget Crater on Mercury is named after him.

(Via Lee Gallery  and other sources)

After graduating College (creative photography) I went to Paris. In preparation I read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway and Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell and studied the works of Brassaï and Atget. I tried to imagine seeing Paris through their eyes. Needless to say I loved Paris. It had a profound effect on me. Enjoy the images by Atget!

Eugène Atget, Paris 1927 -by Berenice Abbott

             An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche 

Atget has been called the Gallic Brother of Walker Evans

A good photograph is like a good hound dog, dumb, but eloquent. ~ Eugene Atget

Eugene Atget Prostitute, 1921
(Sold for 242,500 USD April 2011)

Eugene Atget, ‘La Villette, Prostitute on Night Shift, 19th Arrondissement’ Paris 1921

When good Americans die they go to Paris.
~ Oscar Wilde

Parisians watching an eclipse

Atget Photographe de Paris
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