Friday, February 24, 2012

Eugene Atget-Keith

I have always admired the work of Atget (1856-1927). Now with the benefit of H&A, I saw a more extensive look at his work and his story. Atget was one of the first documentary photographers. He documented Old Paris from 1905-1922. He took on photography as a late life hobby, he was previously a sailor and a bit production actor. However he made a a profit with his photos. His office, translated into English, was called "Documents for Artists" and he had a massive archive of practically every detail of the city, and some of its people, all for the reference of painters. Atget only shot on Sunday mornings, very early in the morning, to avoid as many people as possible. His portraits are rare because there were few people up at that time, but he has this gift with photographing architecture. The scenes are of such simple subject matter, but at the same time are so interesting. There is also a good amount of ghosting, with the rare, moving, people in the frame. For how massive his archive is, there is a very good chance it would not have survived if not for Bernice Abbot, another documentary photographer, who discovered and preserved Atget's work. Atget's images were not popular in his lifetime. It makes me laugh thinking about this old man, with a tripod and a large format camera, romping around Paris, but his work is iconic in my eyes.

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