Sunday, October 03, 2010

Eugène Atget-the "Balzac of the Camera"--1857-1927

The New York Times of October 2, 2010, had a feature article on Eugène Atget, the Balzac of the Camera, the French photographer noted for his photographs documenting the architecture and street scenes of Paris.  Between 1897 and 1927 Atget captured the old Paris in his photos showing the city in its various facets: narrow lanes and courtyards, magnificent palaces, bridges and quays on the banks of the Seine and shops with window displays.  He produced innumerable views of the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud, Tuileries Gardens and Parc de Sceaux.  In addition to architecture and the urban environment, he also photographed street vendors, small tradesmen, rag collectors and prostitutes, as well as fairs and popular amusements.

Berenice Abbott
was instrumental in introducing Atget's Paris for the rest of the world.  She became interested in his work when she was an assistant to Atget's Montparnasse neighbor Man Ray.  She promoted his work by sending friends to purchase his pictures.  After his death in 1927 Abbott arranged for New York's Museum of Modern Art to buy his archive, and through a series of exhibitions and publications Atget finally entered the pantheon of  "Masters" of photography.  Abbot wrote of Atget, "He was an urbanist historian, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization."

Although the Museum of Modern Art now has some 5,000 of Alget's prints and negatives, I could find only two photos of Alget himself.

To read the New York Times article click here:

Parc de Saint-Cloud

Notre Dame

Organ Grinder-1898

Parc de Sceaux

Place du Tertre-1922

Pont Neuf--1902

Quai d'Anjou-1924

Quai d'Anjou...photograph taken much later on to demonstrate the changing vista of Paris

Street Walker-1921-waiting for a client

Rag Picker

rue de Valencia-1922


Maison Romano-rue Mouffetard

106 rue de Suffrenne---Entrance of a Brothel

Carousel (our Merry-Go-Round?)

Au Tambour, 63 Quai de la Tournelle-1908

Au Tambour-interior

rue des Ursins-1923 

Le Pont (pedestrians only) des Amoureux

L'Eclipse-1912-crowd gathers on the Place de l'Opéra

The streets, buildings and people live in Atget's photos, a chronicle of a whole epoch, as in Balzac's pages. For more Atget photos documenting Paris street scenes--click here:

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