When Eugène ATGET roamed the streets and suburbs of Paris at the turn of the 20th century with his then already outdated, bulky and heavy plate camera to photograph small tradesmen, prostitutes, alleys, backyways, facades, architectural details, parks and street alignments, he did so in the awareness of being an eyewitness to a disappearing world. Although his pictures served prosaic purposes as souvenirs or templates for painters such as George Braque, André Derain or Maurice Utrillo, Eugène ATGET himself saw himself as a city archaeologist, who strolled and photographed a comprehensive photo documentation of his adopted home of Paris. Eugène ATGET remained largely unknown during his lifetime, his photography differed too much from the preferred painterly soft-focus style of his era due to its precision and documentary sharpness, but in the 1920s the avant-garde of Dadaism and Surrealism became aware of him through MAN RAY. Four of his paintings appeared in the Surrealist journal La Révolution surréaliste. MAN RAY himself and many of his friends acquired photographs of Eugène ATGET. However, the photographer became better known only posthumously thanks to several articles and a monograph by Berenice ABBOTT, who had met Eugène ATGET through MAN RAY shortly before his death. His example was later invoked by some of the most famous photographers, including Walker EVANS and Bill BRANDT.
Book review, content
"This book should not be missing from any good photography book collection, because John Szarkowski's description and chronological sequence of Eugène ATGET's images really opens up his work" (© Richard G. SPORLEDER)
"Eugène ATGET is usually characterized as a historical precedent for the photographic work of Walker EVANS in the 1930s, then Robert FRANK in the 1950s, and then continued by the photographs of Gary WINOGRAND and Lee FRIEDLANDER. John Szarkowski elegantly articulates his direct view / photography in his earlier book 'Mirrors and Windows': 'I have a wide collection of photography books that contain one or two images by Eugène ATGET, but I really wanted to have a specific resource to read and study to better understand his take on something.' (freely translated, © John Szarkowski)
There are a number of alternative hardcover book options for Eugène ATGET photos, but it's just too hard not to access a summary of Eugène ATGET's photos with John Szarkowski's insights and beautiful printing. The images are all well presented in the book, with the Eugene ATGET photo on the right and on the opposite page, the commentary on the photo by John Szarkowski. So I have traveled through this book many times now. At first I was hoping for a little more analysis of the structure of the photo from John Szarkowski, but then I realized that he helped to provide context for the photo and describe the attributes of the photo. The book sequences are photographed chronologically and take the viewer on a historical journey through the development of Eugène ATGET's work. You will understand that even Berenice ABBOTT, who became the champion of Eugène ATGET's photographs, was not so close to the photographer himself.In conclusion: a book I really recommend." (freely translated, © Douglas Stockdale)
- John Szarkowski
- HC, 25 x 30 cm., 224 pp., b/w ills., English