Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget

Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne. His father, carriage builder Jean-Eugène Atget, died in 1862.

Eugène Atget


Eugène Atget (12 February 1857 – 4 August 1927) was a French flâneur, and a pioneer of documentary photography noted for his determination to document all of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization. Most of his photographs were first published by Berenice Abbott after his death. Though he sold his work to artists and craftspeople and became an inspiration for the surrealists, he did not live to see the wide acclaim his work would eventually receive.

© Eugène Atget.

Atget’s birthplace in Libourne
Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne. His father, carriage builder Jean-Eugène Atget, died in 1862, and his mother, Clara-Adeline Atget née Hourlier died shortly after; he was an orphan at age seven. He was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Bordeaux and after finishing secondary education joined the merchant navy.

© Eugène Atget.

Atget moved to Paris in 1878. He failed the entrance exam for acting class but was admitted when he had a second try. Because he was drafted for military service, he could attend class only part-time, and he was expelled from drama school.

Still living in Paris, he became an actor with a travelling group, performing in the Paris suburbs and the provinces. He met actress Valentine Delafosse Compagnon, who became his companion until her death. He gave up acting because of an infection of his vocal cords in 1887, moved to the provinces and took up painting without success. When he was thirty, he made his first photographs, of Amiens and Beauvais, which date from 1888.

In 1890, Atget moved back to Paris and became a professional photographer, supplying documents for artists: studies for painters, architects, and stage designers.

Starting in 1898, institutions such as the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris bought his photographs. The latter commissioned him ca. 1906 to systematically photograph old buildings in Paris. In 1899 he moved to Montparnasse.

Small market in front of the Church of Saint-Médard, Paris, 1898.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget.

While being a photographer, Atget still called himself an actor, giving lectures and readings.

During World War I, Atget temporarily stored his archives in his basement for safekeeping and almost completely gave up photography. Valentine’s son Léon was killed at the front.

In 1920–21, he sold thousands of his negatives to institutions. Financially independent, he took up photographing the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux and produced a series of photographs of prostitutes.

Berenice Abbott, while working with Man Ray, visited Atget in 1925, bought some of his photographs, and tried to interest other artists in his work. She continued to promote Atget through various articles, exhibitions and books and sold her Atget collection to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968.

In 1926, Atget’s partner Valentine died, and before he saw the full-face and profile portraits that Abbott took of him in 1927, showing him “slightly stooped…tired, sad, remote, appealing”, Atget died on 4 August in 1927, in Paris.

Parisians looking at a total solar eclipse, April 17, 1912.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget

Photographic practice

Avenue des Gobelins (1927)
Atget took up photography in the late 1880s, around the time that photography was experiencing unprecedented expansion in both commercial and amateur fields.

Atget photographed Paris with a large-format wooden bellows camera with a rapid rectilinear lens, an instrument that was fairly current when he took it up, but which he continued to use even when hand-held and more efficient large-format cameras became available. The optical vignetting often seen at some corners of his photographs is due to his having repositioned the lens relative to the plate on the camera—exploiting one of the features of bellows view cameras as a way to correct perspective and control perspective and keep vertical forms straight. The negatives show four small clear rebates (printing black) where clips held the glass in the plate-holder during exposure. The glass plates were 180×240mm Bande Bleue (Blue Ribbon) brand with a general-purpose gelatin-silver emulsion, fairly slow, that necessitated quite long exposures, resulting in the blurring of moving subjects seen in some of his pictures. Interest in Atget’s work has prompted the recent scientific analysis of Atget’s negatives and prints in Parisian collections and in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In Intérieurs Parisiens, a series of photographs he took for the Bibliotéque Nationale, he included a view of his own simple darkroom with trays for processing negatives and prints, a safelight, and printing frames. After taking a photograph, Atget would develop, wash, and fix his negative, then assign the negative to one of his filing categories with the next consecutive number that he would write the negative number in graphite on the verso of the negative and also scratch it into the emulsion. He contact-printed his negatives onto pre-sensitized, commercially available printing-out papers; albumen paper, gelatin-silver printing-out paper, or two types of matte albumen paper that he used mainly after WW1. The negative was clamped into a printing frame under glass and against a sheet of albumen photographic printing out paper, which was left out in the sun to expose. The frame permitted inspection of the print until a satisfactory exposure was achieved, then Atget washed, fixed and toned his print with gold toner, as was the standard practice when he took up photography.

Atget did not use an enlarger, and all of his prints are the same size as their negatives. Prints would be numbered and labelled on their backs in pencil then inserted by the corners into four slits cut on each page of albums. Additional albums were assembled based on specific themes that might be of interest to his clients, and separate from series or chronology.

The Palace of Versailles, 1903.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget


Subject matter
By 1891 Atget advertised his business with a shingle at his door, remarked later by Berenice Abbott, that announced: “Documents pour Artistes”. Initially, his subjects were flowers, animals, landscapes, and monuments; sharp and meticulous studies centred simply in the frame and intended for artists’ use.

Atget then embarked on a series of picturesque views of Paris which include documentation of the small trades in his series Petits Métiers. He made views of gardens in the areas surrounding Paris, in the summer of 1901, photographing the gardens at Versailles, a challenging subject of large scale and with combinations of natural and architectural and sculptural elements which he would revisit until 1927, learning to make balanced compositions and perspectives.

Early in the 1900s, Atget began to document “Old Paris,” reading extensively in order to sympathetically focus on Paris architecture and environments dating prior to the French Revolution, concern over the preservation of which ensured him commercial success. He framed the winding streets to show the historic buildings in context, rather than making frontal architectural elevations.

Atget’s specialization in the imagery of Old Paris expanded his clientele. Amongst his scant surviving documents was his notebook, known by the word Repertoire on its cover (the French repertoire meaning a thumb-indexed address book or directory, but also defined, aptly in actor Atget’s case, as ‘a stock of plays, dances, or items that a company or a performer knows or is prepared to perform’). The book is now in the MoMA collection, and in it, he recorded the names and addresses of 460 clients; architects, interior decorators, builders and their artisans skilled in ironwork, wood panelling, door knockers, also painters, engravers, illustrators, and set designers, jewellers René Lalique and Weller, antiquarians and historians, artists including Tsuguharu Foujita, Maurice de Vlaminck and Georges Braque, well-known authors, editors, publishers Armand Colin and Hachette, and professors, including the many who donated their own collections of his photographs to institutions. The address book also lists contacts at publications, such as L’Illustration, Revue Hebdomadaire, Les Annales politiques et litteraires, and l’Art et des artistes. Institutional collectors of Old Paris documents, including archives, schools, and museums were also a keen clientele and brought him commercial success, with commissions from the Bibliotèque Historique de la Ville de Paris in 1906 and 1911 and the sale of various albums of photographs to the Bibliotèque Nationale.

Atget’s photographs attracted the attention of, and were purchased by, artists such as Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp and Picasso in the 1920s, as well as Maurice Utrillo, Edgar Degas and André Derain, some of whose views are seen from identical vantage-points at which Atget took pictures, and were likely made with the assistance of his photographs bought from the photographer for a few cents.

By the end of his career, Atget had worked methodically and concurrently on thirteen separate series of photographs including ‘Landscape Documents’, ‘Picturesque Paris’, ‘Art in Old Paris’, ‘Environs’, ‘Topography of Old Paris’, ‘Tuileries’, ‘Vielle France’, ‘Interiors’, ‘Saint Cloud’, ‘Versailles’, ‘Parisian Parks’, ‘Sceaux’ and a smaller series on costumes and religious arts, returning to subjects after they had been put aside for many years.

Surrealist appropriation
Man Ray, who lived on the same street as Atget in Paris, the rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse purchased and collected almost fifty of Atget’s into an album embossed with the name ‘Atget’, “coll. Man Ray” and a date, 1926. He published several of Atget’s photographs in his La Révolution surréaliste; most famously in issue number 7, of 15 June 1926, his Pendant l’éclipse made fourteen years earlier and showing a crowd gathered at the Colonne de Juillet to peer through various devices, or through their bare fingers, at the Solar eclipse of 17 April 1912. Atget however, did not regard himself as a Surrealist. When Ray asked Atget if he could use his photo, Atget said: “Don’t put my name on it. These are simply documents I make.” Man Ray proposed that Atget’s pictures of staircases, doorways, ragpickers, and especially those with window reflections and mannequins, had a Dada or Surrealist quality about them.

Recognition in America
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.

— Berenice Abbott
After Atget’s death his friend, the actor André Calmettes, sorted his work into two categories; 2,000 records of historic Paris, and photographs of all other subjects. The former, he gave to the French government; the others he sold to the American photographer Berenice Abbott,

Atget created a comprehensive photographic record of the look and feel of nineteenth-century Paris just as it was dramatically transformed by modernization, and its buildings were being systematically demolished.

When Berenice Abbott reportedly asked him if the French appreciated his art, he responded ironically, “No, only young foreigners.” While Ray and Abbott claimed to have ‘discovered’ him around 1925, he was certainly not the unknown ‘primitive’ ‘tramp’ or ‘Douanier Rousseau of the street’ that they took him for; he had, since 1900, as counted by Alain Fourquier, 182 reproductions of 158 images in 29 publications and had sold, between 1898 and 1927 and beyond the postcards he published, sometimes more than 1000 pictures a year to public institutions including the Bibliothèque Nationale, Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Musée de Sculpture Comparé, École des Beaux-Arts, the Directorate of Fine Arts and others.

During the Depression in the 1930s Abbott sold half of her collection to Julian Levy, who owned a gallery in New York. Since he had difficulty selling the prints, he allowed Abbott to keep them in her possession. In the late 1960s, Abbott and Levy sold the collection of Atgets to The Museum of Modern Art. As MoMA bought it, the collection contained 1415 glass negatives and nearly 8,000 vintage prints from over 4,000 distinct negatives.

The publication of his work in the United States after his death and the promotion of his work to English-speaking audiences was due to Berenice Abbott. She exhibited, printed and wrote about his work, and assembled a substantial archive of writings about his portfolio by herself and others. Abbott published Atget, Photographe de Paris in 1930, the first overview of his photographic oeuvre and the beginning of his international fame. She also published a book with prints she made from Atget’s negatives: The World of Atget (1964). Berenice Abbott and Eugene Atget was published in 2002.

Car and two motorcycles in front of garage, Rue de Valence, Paris, 1922. –
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget.

As the city and architecture are two main themes in Atget’s photographs, his work has been commented on and reviewed together with the work of Berenice Abbott and Amanda Bouchenoire, in the book Structure and harmony. Cities and architectures, where the author Jerome Saltz analyzes historicist perspectives and considers their aesthetic implications: “(…) the three authors coincide in the search for and exaltation of intrinsic beauty in their objectives, regardless of quality and clarity of their references.”

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Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus achieved some recognition and renown with the publication, beginning in 1960, of photographs in such magazines as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, London’s Sunday Times Magazine, and Artforum.

Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971) was an American photographer. Arbus worked to normalize marginalized groups and highlight the importance of proper representation of all people. She worked with a wide range of subjects including; strippers, carnival performers, nudists, dwarves, children, mothers, couples, older adults, and middle-class families. She photographed her subjects in familiar settings: their homes, on the street, in the workplace, in the park. “She is noted for expanding notions of acceptable subject matter and violates canons of the appropriate distance between photographer and subject. By befriending, not objectifying her subjects, she was able to capture in her work a rare psychological intensity.” In his 2003 New York Times Magazine article, “Arbus Reconsidered,” Arthur Lubow states, “She was fascinated by people who were visibly creating their own identities—cross-dressers, nudists, sideshow performers, tattooed men, the nouveaux riches, the movie-star fans—and by those who were trapped in a uniform that no longer provided any security or comfort.” Michael Kimmelman writes in his review of the exhibition Diane Arbus Revelations, that her work “transformed the art of photography (Arbus is everywhere, for better and worse, in the work of artists today who make photographs)”.

© Diane Arbus Estate – Self-portrait pregnancy

In her lifetime she achieved some recognition and renown with the publication, beginning in 1960, of photographs in such magazines as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, London’s Sunday Times Magazine, and Artforum. In 1963 the Guggenheim Foundation awarded Arbus a fellowship for her proposal entitled, “American Rites, Manners and Customs”. She was awarded a renewal of her fellowship in 1966. John Szarkowski, the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City from 1962 to 1991, championed her work and included it in his 1967 exhibit New Documents along with the work of Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. Her photographs were also included in a number of other major group shows.

Photographed through anti-UV perspex- colour charts only a guide. – © Diane Arbus Estate

In 1972, a year after her suicide, Arbus became the first photographer to be included in the Venice Biennale where her photographs were “the overwhelming sensation of the American Pavilion” and “extremely powerful and very strange.”

The first major retrospective of Arbus’ work was held in 1972 at MoMA, organized by Szarkowski. The retrospective garnered the highest attendance of any exhibition in MoMA’s history to date. Millions viewed travelling exhibitions of her work from 1972 to 1979. The book accompanying the exhibition, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph, edited by Doon Arbus and Marvin Israel and first published in 1972 has never been out of print.

Diane Arbus, Tattooed Man at a Carnival, Md. 1970, printed after 1971
© Diane Arbus Estate

Personal life
Arbus was born Diane Nemerov to David Nemerov and Gertrude Russek Nemerov, a Jewish couple – immigrants from Soviet Russia – who lived in New York City and owned Russeks, a Fifth Avenue department store. Because of her family’s wealth, Arbus was insulated from the effects of the Great Depression while growing up in the 1930s. Her father became a painter after retiring from Russeks. Her younger sister became a sculptor and designer, and her older brother, the poet Howard Nemerov, taught English at Washington University in St. Louis and was appointed United States Poet Laureate. Howard’s son is the Americanist art historian Alexander Nemerov.

Arbus’s parents were not deeply involved in raising their children, who were overseen by maids and governesses. Her mother had a busy social life and underwent a period of clinical depression for approximately a year, then recovered, and her father was busy with work. She separated herself from her family and her lavish childhood.

Arbus attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a prep school. In 1941, at the age of 18, she married her childhood sweetheart, Allan Arbus, whom she had dated since age 14. Their daughter Doon, who would become a writer, was born in 1945; their daughter Amy, who would become a photographer, was born in 1954. Arbus and her husband worked together in commercial photography from 1946 to 1956, but Allan remained very supportive of her work even after leaving the business and began an independent relationship to photography.

Arbus and her husband separated in 1959, although they maintained a close friendship. The couple also continued to share a darkroom, where Allan’s studio assistants processed her negatives, and she printed her work. The couple divorced in 1969 when he moved to California to pursue acting. He was popularly known for his role as Dr. Sidney Freedman on the television show MAS*H. Before his move to California, Allan set up her darkroom, and they thereafter maintained a long correspondence.

In late 1959, Arbus began a relationship with the art director and painter Marvin Israel that would last until her death. All the while, he remained married to Margaret Ponce Israel, an accomplished mixed-media artist. Marvin Israel both spurred Arbus creatively and championed her work, encouraging her to create her first portfolio. Among other photographers and artists she befriended, Arbus was close to photographer Richard Avedon; he was approximately the same age, his family had also run a Fifth Avenue department store, and many of his photographs were also characterized by detailed frontal poses.

© Diane Arbus Estate

Photographic career
Arbus received her first camera, a Graflex, from Allan shortly after they married. Shortly thereafter, she enrolled in classes with photographer Berenice Abbott. The Arbuses’ interests in photography led them, in 1941, to visit the gallery of Alfred Stieglitz, and learn about the photographers Mathew Brady, Timothy O’Sullivan, Paul Strand, Bill Brandt, and Eugène Atget. In the early 1940s, Diane’s father employed them to take photographs of the department store’s advertisements. Allan was a photographer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II.

In 1946, after the war, the Arbuses began a commercial photography business called “Diane & Allan Arbus”, with Diane as art director and Allan as the photographer. She would come up with the concepts for their shoots and then take care of the models. She grew dissatisfied with this role, a role even her husband thought was “demeaning”. They contributed to Glamour, Seventeen, Vogue, and other magazines even though “they both hated the fashion world.” Despite over 200 pages of their fashion editorial in Glamour, and over 80 pages in Vogue, the Arbuses’ fashion photography has been described as of “middling quality.” Edward Steichen’s noted 1955 photography exhibition, The Family of Man, did include a photograph by the Arbuses of a father and son reading a newspaper.

© Diane Arbus Estate – Self-Portrait

She studied briefly with Alexey Brodovich in 1954. However, it was her studies with Lisette Model, which began in 1956, that encouraged Arbus to focus exclusively on her own work. That year Arbus quit the commercial photography business and began numbering her negatives. (Her last known negative was labelled #7459.) Based on Model’s advice, Arbus avoided loading film in the camera as an exercise in truly seeing. Arbus also credits Model with making it clear to her that “the more specific you are, the more general it’ll be.”

By 1956 she worked with a 35mm Nikon, wandering the streets of New York City and meeting her subjects largely, though not always, by chance. The idea of personal identity as socially constructed is one that Arbus came back to, whether it be performers, women and men wearing makeup, or a literal mask obstructing one’s face. Critics have speculated that the choices in her subjects reflected her own identity issues, for she said that the only thing she suffered from as a child was never having felt adversity. This evolved into a longing for things that money couldn’t buy, such as experiences in the underground social world. She is often praised for her sympathy for these subjects, a quality which is not immediately understood through the images themselves, but through her writing and the testimonies of the men and women she portrayed. A few years later, in 1958 she began making lists of who and what she was interested in photographing. She began photographing on assignment for magazines such as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Sunday Times Magazine in 1959.

Around 1962, Arbus switched from a 35mm Nikon camera which produced the grainy rectangular images characteristic of her post-studio work to a twin-lens reflex Rolleiflex camera which produced more detailed square images. She explained this transition by saying “In the beginning of photographing I used to make very grainy things. I’d be fascinated by what the grain did because it would make a kind of tapestry of all these little dots…But when I’d been working for a while with all these dots, I suddenly wanted terribly to get through there. I wanted to see the real differences between things… I began to get terribly hyped on clarity.” In 1964, Arbus began using a 2-1/4 Mamiyaflex camera with flash in addition to the Rolleiflex.

Arbus’s style is said to be “direct and unadorned, a frontal portrait centred in a square format. Her pioneering use of flash in daylight isolated the subjects from the background, contributing to the photos’ surreal quality.” Her methods included establishing a strong personal relationship with her subjects and re-photographing some of them over many years.

In spite of being widely published and achieving some artistic recognition, Arbus struggled to support herself through her work. “During her lifetime, there was no market for collecting photographs as works of art, and her prints usually sold for $100 or less.” It is evident from her correspondence that lack of money was a persistent concern.

In 1963, Arbus was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project on “American rites, manners, and customs”; the fellowship was renewed in 1966.

Throughout the 1960s, Arbus supported herself largely by taking magazine assignments and commissions. For example, in 1968 she shot documentary photographs of poor sharecroppers in rural South Carolina (for Esquire magazine). In 1969 a rich and prominent actor and theatre owner, Konrad Matthaei, and his wife, Gay, commissioned Arbus to photograph a family Christmas gathering. During her career, Arbus photographed Mae West, Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Nelson, Bennet Cerf, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Norman Mailer, Jayne Mansfield, Eugene McCarthy, billionaire H. L. Hunt, Gloria Vanderbilt’s baby, Anderson Cooper, Coretta Scott King, and Marguerite Oswald (Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother). In general, her magazine assignments decreased as her fame as an artist increased. Szarkowski hired Arbus in 1970 to research an exhibition on photojournalism called “From the Picture Press”; it included many photographs by Weegee whose work Arbus admired. She also taught photography at the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Union in New York City, and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island.

© Diane Arbus Estate

Late in her career, The Metropolitan Museum of Art indicated to her that they would buy three of her photographs for $75 each, but citing a lack of funds, purchased only two. As she wrote to Allan Arbus, “So I guess being poor is no disgrace.”

Beginning in 1969 Arbus undertook a series of photographs of people at New Jersey residences for the developmentally and intellectually disabled, posthumously named Untitled. Arbus returned to several facilities repeatedly for Halloween parties, picnics, and dances. In a letter to Allan Arbus dated November 28, 1969, she described these photographs as “lyric and tender and pretty.”

Artforum published six photographs, including a cover image, from Arbus’s portfolio, A box of ten photographs, in May 1971. After his encounter with Arbus and the portfolio, Philip Leider, then editor in chief of Artforum and a photography sceptic, admitted, “With Diane Arbus, one could find oneself interested in photography or not, but one could no longer . . . deny its status as art.” She was the first photographer to be featured in Artforum and “Leider’s admission of Arbus into this critical bastion of late modernism was instrumental in shifting the perception of photography and ushering its acceptance into the realm of ‘serious’ art.”

The first major exhibition of her photographs occurred at the Museum of Modern Art in the influential New Documents (1967) alongside the work of Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, curated by John Szarkowski. New Documents, which drew almost 250,000 visitors demonstrated Arbus’s interest in what Szarkowski referred to as society’s “frailties” and presented what he described as “a new generation of documentary photographers…whose aim has been not to reform life but to know it, “described elsewhere as “photography that emphasized the pathos and conflicts of modern life presented without editorializing or sentimentalizing but with a critical, observant eye.” The show was polarizing, receiving both praise and criticism, with some identifying Arbus as a disinterested voyeur and others praising her for her evident empathy with her subjects.

In 2018, The New York Times published a belated obituary of Arbus as part of the Overlooked history project. The Smithsonian American Art Museum housed an exclusive exhibit from April 6, 2018, to January 27, 2019, that featured one of Arbus’ portfolios, A box of ten photographs. The SAAM is the only museum currently displaying the work. The collection is “one of just four complete editions that Arbus printed and annotated. The three other editions—the artist never executed her plan to make 50—are held privately”. The Smithsonian edition was made for Bea Feitler, an art director who both employed and befriended Arbus. After Feitler’s death, Baltimore collector G.H. Dalsheimer bought her portfolio from Sotheby’s in 1982 for $42,900. The SAAM then bought it from Dalsheimer in 1986. The portfolio was put away in the museum’s collection, until 2018.

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Robert Adams

Robert Adams first came to prominence in the mid-1970s through his book The New West and his participation in the exhibition New Topographics.

Robert Adams (born May 8, 1937) is an American photographer who has focused on the changing landscape of the American West. His work first came to prominence in the mid-1970s through his book The New West (1974) and his participation in the exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape in 1975. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and the Hasselblad Award.

Robert Adams – ©IPHF

Robert Hickman Adams was born on May 8, 1937 in Orange, New Jersey to Lois Hickman Adams and Ross Adams. In 1940 the family moved to Madison, New Jersey where his younger sister Carolyn was born. Then in 1947 they moved to Madison, Wisconsin for five years, where he contracted polio at age 12 in 1949 in his back, left arm, and hand but was able to recover. They moved one last time, in 1952, to Wheat Ridge, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, when his father secured a job in Denver. They moved to Colorado partly because of the chronic bronchial problems that he suffered from in Madison, New Jersey around age 5 as an attempt to help alleviate those problems. He continued to suffer from asthma and allergy problems.

During his childhood, Adams often accompanied his father on walks and hikes through the woods on Sunday afternoons. He also enjoyed playing baseball in open fields and working with his father on carpentry projects. He was an active Boy Scout, and was also active with the Methodist church that his family attended. He and his father made several raft trips through Dinosaur National Monument, and during his adolescent years he worked at boys’ camps at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. He also took trips on pack horses and went mountain climbing. He and his sister began visiting Denver Art Museum. Adams also learned to like reading. In 1955, he hunted for the last time.

North Denver, Colorado, 1973 © Robert Adams

Adams enrolled in the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1955, and attended it for his first year, but decided to transfer the next year to the University of Redlands in California where he received his B.A. in English in 1959. He continued his graduate studies at the University of Southern California and received his PhD in English in 1965.

In 1960 while at Redlands, he met and married Kerstin Mornestam, a Swedish native, who shared the same interest in the arts and nature. Robert and Kerstin spent their first few summers together in Oregon along the coast, where they took long walks on the beach and spent their evenings reading.

A drive-in movie theater, North Denver, Colorado, 1969 © Robert Adams

Work
In 1963 they moved back to Colorado, and Adams began teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. In 1963, Adams bought a 35 mm camera and began to take pictures mostly of nature and architecture. He soon read complete sets of Camera Work and Aperture at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He learned photographic technique from Myron Wood, a professional photographer who lived in Colorado. While finishing his dissertation, he began to photograph in 1964. In 1966, he began to teach only part-time to have more time to photograph. He met John Szarkowski, the curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, on a trip to New York City in 1969. The museum later bought four of his prints. In 1970, he began working as a full-time photographer.

Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian, said “his subject has been the American west: its vastness, its sparse beauty and its ecological fragility. What he has photographed constantly – in varying shades of grey – is what has been lost and what remains” and that “his work’s other great subtext” is silence.

Weld County, Colorado, 1984 © Robert Adams

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The Orbital Strangers

The Orbital Strangers Project is an alliance between two highly sought-after photographers, Csaba Aknay and Gabor Kotschy. Despite of the fact that both artists built up their respective reputations as talented photographers in their own rights, they decided to collaborate and continue their career under the Orbital Strangers brand. Their similar outlook on photography and the professional attitude make this unique alliance work.

The Orbital Strangers Project is proudly collaborating with Fujifilm. Csaba and Gabor believe that this opportunity boosts their creative energy and opens up new ways both in applied photography and fine art.

The duo behind a photography partnership that spans Budapest and London, The Orbital Strangers Project, discuss why they love black & white photography and offer insight into how to master monochrome yourself

Csaba Aknay and Gabor Kotschy have spent 20 years building individual reputations as respected professional photographers and it was only relatively recently that they decided to combine their vision and creative energy by forming The Orbital Strangers Project. However, in that short time they have worked on many projects together, with clients including everything from magazines and advertising agencies to corporate and movie productions.

FUJIFILM GFX 50R – F1.0 ISO 2000, 1/80 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


A significant amount of The Orbital Strangers Project’s work is in black & white. So, with Csaba and Gabor being undoubtedly masters of monochrome, we asked them about their process when making such striking images, as well as why they chose FUJIFILM cameras and lenses to do it. “There’s no better technique for expressing moods than black & white,” Csaba says. “That’s the reason why it’s ideal for conveying emotion or for portraying striking individual concepts. We photograph in black & white across a wide range of subjects and it’s an approach that’s suited perfectly to the way we work.”

FUJIFILM X-Pro2 – F2.0 ISO 1250, 1/200 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


The pair became FUJIFILM X-Photographers in 2017, but as with their fascination for monochrome, their history with the system began long before that. “From the very first time we had the opportunity to use the FUJIFILM X-Pro1, we were amazed by the way that FUJIFILM thinks about cameras and photography. For a while, we had been looking for a professional digital system with a rangefinder style design and traditional control,” remembers Csaba.
“And despite the original X-Pro1 being upgraded, it’s meaningful that Csaba still has that camera,” adds Gabor. “He decided to keep it, and not only for sentimental reasons. Through aspects like its emphasis on manual control, FUJIFILM’s cameras provide us with a traditional and a modern approach to photography at the same time, and this design concept perfectly fits our style and the way we want to make photos.”

FUJIFILM X100T – F2, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


As experts in black & white photography, the pair have plenty of advice to share. So, what’s the most important thing about making monochrome images for them? “Due to the lack of colour, black & white photography seems like it should be quite simple,” explains Gabor. “However, it’s a deceptively complex, ancient genre that can ambush an inexperienced photographer easily. The real trick is to start ‘seeing in black & white’. That all comes from practicing how to dismiss colours, but it can be harder than many people imagine.”

Why would they say this can be difficult? “Well, everything we can see around us carries colour information,” explains Gabor, “and that’s how we naturally perceive the world, so depriving our sight of colours is a very big change indeed. Since it’s an entirely different way of thinking compared to colour photography, this all starts with making a deliberate decision to photograph in black & white. This is the most important step in the process, and every further step is going to relate to this decision later.”

FUJIFILM X-H1 + XF35mmF1.4 R – F1.4, ISO 250, 1/125 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


This idea of learning to see the world differently, and the fundamental change to your approach that’s required when making images in black & white, is echoed by Csaba. “The most common mistake that people make when photographing in black & white is sticking to a colour mindset, instead of switching their inner vision to monochrome,” he emphasises. “And since the original colours in a scene command limited influence when translated into black & white photography, other aspects become more important. For example, things like the rhythm of compositional elements, the shadows, the relationship between grey tones and the overall contrast in the photo, stand out more clearly, as you can see from the image below.”

FUJIFILM X-Pro1 + XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS – F9, ISO 250, 1/125 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


While the pair ultimately prefer to create their black & white images in post-production using RAW files from their FUJIFILM cameras, Gabor says a monochrome preview displayed in the EVF or on screen can help photographers in the process of moving away from colour. “RAW files give us both quality and versatility, but switching the camera to a black & white Film Simulation mode can still be very helpful when it comes to the process of seeing in black & white,” he explains.

As an example of the way that working without colour can affect composition, Csaba describes the typical changes that would be seen in a monochrome image versus a colour landscape image. “The most spectacular difference is usually in terms of the sky,” he says. “The sky is pretty emphatic in most of the colour landscapes, but without colour, it’s more avoidable, and that influences composition. With a white or grey sky, there’s a chance to fill the image with something more useful, like trees. And while The Orbital Strangers Project’s natural habitat is the street, it’s interesting that images of the urban environment follow the same approach, as with the image below.”

FUJIFILM X-Pro2 – F1.4 ISO 200, 1/200 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


What some may see as limitations imposed by black & white photography, Gabor instead sees as opportunities. “The chance of letting go of the burden of white balance or any other issues related to colour may open up a new frontier,” he explains. “Photography is a field of a billion solutions. Take the following image, for example. This shows how we can create a dynamic composition in a high-contrast environment. In images like this, contrast can be raised in a way that’s impossible in colour.”

FUJIFILM X-Pro2 + XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS – F5.6, ISO 500, 1/8000 sec


One of the most important things, however, is not to expect that photographing in black & white can suddenly make an image a good one, and the pair are keen to stress this. “Some people think that a lack of colour can cover a lack of concept, vision or knowledge,” Csaba explains. “This is perhaps the biggest mistake that anyone can make when working in monochrome. Black & white is not the ultimate photographic tool and that means a portrait that’s made in black & white is not automatically artistically worthy or good.

“From that same point of view,” says Csaba, “we don’t think, for example, that black & white technique is automatically superior to colour in the street or documentary genres. Though the golden era of documentary photography spanned the 1920s to the late 1960s, and this was a time when monochrome film was the medium for it, since then technology has developed, and many amazing full-colour street and documentary photos have been created. But a black & white route can still be useful for photographers who want more room for manoeuvre. For instance, in extreme situations, colour photos can look forced or overdone, which is less likely to be the case in monochrome images. And a lack of colour can help when those hues are contrary to the composition or the mood that the photographer is trying to create. Black & white instead directs attention straight to the point.”

FUJIFILM X-Pro2 – F9 ISO 250, 1/60 sec – ©FUJIFILM Corporation


Just as they see black & white as a precise and specific tool to achieve their artistic vision, the pair feel that the specific advantages of their FUJIFILM cameras complement their own aesthetic outlook. “We don’t believe in multifunction cameras that work like Swiss army knives, because purpose always determines the equipment,” says Csaba. “However, we believe that FUJIFILM has found the perfect balance when it comes to function, design and handling. That’s the reason why The Orbital Strangers Project decided to use the FUJIFILM X Series.

“Throughout our careers, we’ve had the opportunity to use many camera systems, but there was always something missing until we came across the FUJIFILM X Series,” he continues. “Like monochrome, these cameras aren’t just blunt tools, but a precise medium through which we can more easily realise our ideas. We believe that the right camera can provide inspiration and help us unleash our creative energies. The feeling of being inspired is one of the most important values for us about FUJIFILM.”

Gabor nods in agreement, adding that build quality and reliability also allow them to concentrate on what matters. “With FUJIFILM, we don’t need to worry about our equipment, so instead we can keep our focus on completing our mission. In a word, FUJIFILM adds reassurance to our work.”

FUJIFILM X-T1 + XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS – F11, ISO 200, 1/200 sec

©FUJIFILM Corporation

Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio who became an assistant to Man Ray, who wanted someone with no previous knowledge of photography.

Berenice Abbott (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991), née Bernice Alice Abbott, was an American photographer best known for her portraits of between-the-wars 20th century cultural figures, New York City photographs of architecture and urban design of the 1930s, and science interpretation in the 1940s to 1960s.

Berenice Abbott - Street Photography - 1938 - The Old Print Shop. Hester Street.
The Old Print Shop, Hester Street, 1938. (All Copyrights respected)

Early years
Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio and brought up there by her divorced mother, née Lillian Alice Bunn (m. Charles E. Abbott in Chillicothe OH, 1886).

She attended Ohio State University for two semesters, but left in early 1918 when her professor was dismissed because he was a German teaching an English class. In Paris, she became an assistant to Man Ray, who wanted someone with no previous knowledge of photography.

Photography career

Trip to Europe, photography, and poetry
Her university studies included theater and sculpture. She spent two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. She studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris and the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. During this time, she adopted the French spelling of her first name, “Berenice,” at the suggestion of Djuna Barnes. In addition to her work in the visual arts, Abbott published poetry in the experimental literary journal transition. Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Later, she wrote: “I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else.” Ray was impressed by her darkroom work and allowed her to use his studio to take her own photographs. In 1921 her first major works was in an exhibition in the Parisian gallery Le Sacre du Printemps. After a short time studying photography in Berlin, she returned to Paris in 1927 and started a second studio, on the rue Servandoni.

Photograph by Abbott of her friend Margarett Sargent taken in Paris in 1928
Abbott’s subjects were people in the artistic and literary worlds, including French nationals (Jean Cocteau), expatriates (James Joyce), and others just passing through the city. According to Sylvia Beach, “To be ‘done’ by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott meant you rated as somebody”. Abbott’s work was exhibited with that of Man Ray, André Kertész, and others in Paris, in the “Salon de l’Escalier” (more formally, the Premier Salon Indépendant de la Photographie), and on the staircase of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Her portraiture was unusual within exhibitions of modernist photography held in 1928–1929 in Brussels and Germany.

Abbott’s photograph of Janet Flanner in 1925
In 1925, Man Ray introduced her to Eugène Atget’s photographs. She became interested in Atget’s work, and managed to persuade him to sit for a portrait in 1927. He died shortly thereafter. She acquired the prints and negatives remaining in Eugène Atget’s studio at his death in 1927. While the government acquired much of Atget’s archive — Atget had sold 2,621 negatives in 1920, and his friend and executor André Calmettes sold 2,000 more immediately after his death — Abbott was able to buy the remainder in June, 1928, and quickly started work on its promotion. An early tangible result was the 1930 book Atget, photographe de Paris, in which she is described as photo editor. Due to a lack of funding, Abbott sold a one-half interest in the collection to Julien Levy for $1,000. Abbott’s work on Atget’s behalf would continue until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. In addition to her book The World of Atget (1964), she provided the photographs for A Vision of Paris (1963), published a portfolio, Twenty Photographs, and wrote essays. Her sustained efforts helped Atget gain international recognition

Changing New York

Bowery restaurant photograph for Changing New York, 1935.
In early 1929, Abbott visited New York City, ostensibly to find an American publisher for Atget’s photographs. After New York when she was doing portrait photography most of the time, she moved on to documentary photography. Upon seeing the city again, Abbott recognized its photographic potential. She went back to Paris, closed up her studio, and returned to New York in September. She was a central figure that created bridge with photographic hubs in New York City. Her first photographs of the city were taken with a handheld Kurt-Bentzin camera, but soon she acquired a Century Universal camera which produced 8 × 10 inch negatives. Using this large format camera, Abbott photographed New York City with the diligence and attention to detail she had so admired in Eugène Atget. Atget died in 1927 and she bought all his work which contained over 5000 negatives and glass slides from him and brought it to New York in 1929. Her work has provided a historical chronicle of many now-destroyed buildings and neighborhoods of Manhattan. Her work appeared in an exhibition “Changing New York” at the Museum Of City in 1937. This was a book made to show the transformation of New York City. She focused more on the physical part of the transformation rather than the mental part of it, such as the change of neighborhoods and the replacement of skyscrapers to low rise buildings.

Abbott worked on her New York project independently for six years, unable to get financial support from organizations (such as the Museum of the City of New York), foundations (such as the Guggenheim Foundation), or individuals. She supported herself with commercial work and teaching at the New School of Social Research beginning in 1933.

Manhattan skyline in 1936
In 1935, Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Project (FAP) as a project supervisor for her “Changing New York” project. She continued to take the photographs of the city, but she had assistants to help her both in the field and in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing, and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York. Abbott’s project was primarily a sociological study embedded within modernist aesthetic practices. She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realize that their environment was a consequence of their collective behavior (and vice versa). Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favor of what she described as “fantastic” contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilized a subject (if she approved of it), or destabilized it (if she scorned it).

Berenice Abbott - Street Photography - 1932 - Bowery Bum.
Bowery Bum, New York, 1932. (All Copyrights respected)

Encampment of the unemployed, New York City, 1935
Abbott’s ideas about New York were highly influenced by Lewis Mumford’s historical writings from the early 1930s, which divided American history into a series of technological eras. Abbott, like Mumford, was particularly critical of America’s “paleotechnic era”, which, as he described it, emerged at end of the American Civil War, a development called by other historians the Second Industrial Revolution. Like Mumford, Abbott was hopeful that, through urban planning efforts (aided by her photographs), Americans would be able to wrest control of their cities from paleotechnic forces, and bring about what Mumford described as a more humane and human-scaled, “neotechnic era”. Abbott’s agreement with Mumford can be seen especially in the ways that she photographed buildings that had been constructed in the paleotechnic era—before the advent of urban planning. Most often, buildings from this era appear in Abbott’s photographs in compositions that made them look downright menacing.

In 1935, Abbott moved into a Greenwich Village loft with the art critic Elizabeth McCausland, with whom she lived until McCausland’s death in 1965. McCausland was an ardent supporter of Abbott, writing several articles for the Springfield Daily Republican, as well as for Trend and New Masses (the latter under the pseudonym Elizabeth Noble). In addition, McCausland contributed the captions for the book of Abbott’s photographs entitled Changing New York which was published in 1939. In 1949, her photography book Greenwich Village Today and Yesterday was published by Harper & Brothers.

Ralph Steiner wrote in that Abbott’s work was “the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.”

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Slim Aarons

Slim Aarons was an American photographer, who worked at West Point, and later served as a combat photographer in World War II and earned a Purple Heart.

Slim Aarons (born George Allen Aarons; October 29, 1916 – May 30, 2006) was an American photographer noted for photographing socialites, jet-setters and celebrities.

Slim Aarons, The High Life, 1968.  Photographer
Slim Aarons, The High Life, 1968. (All Copyrights respected)

Photography career

At 18 years old, Aarons enlisted in the U.S. Army, worked as a photographer at West Point, and later served as a combat photographer in World War II and earned a Purple Heart. Aarons said combat had taught him the only beach worth landing on was “decorated with beautiful, seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun.”

After the war, Aarons moved to California and began photographing celebrities. In California, he shot his most praised photo, Kings of Hollywood, a 1957 New’s Year’s Eve photograph depicting Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper, and James Stewart relaxing at a bar in full formal wear. Aaron’s work appeared in Life, Town & Country, and Holiday magazines.

Aarons never used a stylist, or a makeup artist. He made his career out of what he called “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” An oft-cited example of this approach is his 1970 Poolside Gossip shot at Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, with owner Nelda Linsk as one of the models in the photo. “I knew everyone,” he said in an interview with The (London) Independent in 2002. “They would invite me to one of their parties because they knew I wouldn’t hurt them. I was one of them.” Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rear Window (1954), whose main character is a photographer played by Jimmy Stewart, is set in an apartment reputed to be based on Aarons’ apartment

In 1997, Mark Getty, the co-founder of Getty Images, visited Aarons in his home and bought Aarons’ entire archive.

In 2017, filmmaker Fritz Mitchell released a documentary about Aarons, called Slim Aarons: The High Life.

Death

Aarons died in 2006 in Montrose, New York, and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.