Archive for October 13th, 2013

Berenice Abbott Seventh Avenue Looking South from 35th Street 1935New York City has long been a boon for photographers, with its constantly changing landscape of dramatic architecture and melting pot of cultures.  There is always an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new which makes for fascinating viewing.  I am often drawn to photos which play on this contrast and some of the best are the photos of the late photographer Berenice Abbott.

Abbott was born in Ohio in 1898  and made her way via NYC to the post-war Paris of 1920.  She studied sculpture there but came to photography when she was hired as a studio assistant to avant-garde artist/photography Man Ray.  He chose Abbott because she had no experience at all with photography so would therefore do just as said.  That decision changed her life as she took immediately to photography and never looked back.

Berenice Abbott -Exchange PlaceWhile visiting NY in the late 20’s, Abbott became  enchanted with the photographic possibilities of the fast evolution of the city and began work on a project of shooting the landscape of the city that lasted for several years.  The result was a book, Changing New York, published in 1939.  The images of the city shown  here are from this time.

Abbott had a long and productive career as a photographer, dying in Maine in 1991 at the age of 93.

I was really taken with her photos of NY, particularly the image at the top right, Seventh Avenue Looking South from 35th Street.  She captures the beautiful contrast of light and shadow that takes place among the tall buildings and long avenues in the late afternoon.  There is a hardness in the edges and angularity of the buildings that plays off the softness of the light.  Just a wonderful shot, as is this shot here on the left of Exchange Place.  Its unusual proportions with the the walls of the buildings closing in give it a claustrophobic feel while the ant-like people on the streets below accentuate the vast space.  It’s a great contrast that really makes the image sing.

If you like images of the changing urban landscape, especially in those fast evolving years of the early 20th century, do yourself a favor and Google Image the work/photos of Berenice Abbott.  Just plain good stuff from a name that you probably do not know.

Berenice Abbott- Nightview_ New York 1934Berenice-Abbott-Flatiron-Building,-Manhattan

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