The Fascinating Unknown Photographs of Berenice Abbott

“I took to images like a duck to water,” Berenice Abbott declared in 1976. “I by no means needed to do anything.”

To say “by no means” was a slight exaggeration. Abbott left her native Ohio in 1918 to hunt out a extra adventurous and cosmopolitan life in New York, the place she tried her hand at appearing and sculpting. Only when she ventured to Paris three years later and located employment in Man Ray’s studio did she uncover her true vocation. Upon her return to New York in 1929, Abbott commenced to photograph the panorama, structure, and faces of america, which she did persistently for many years.

The sheer breadth of these footage is made obvious in The Unknown Berenice Abbott, a 5-quantity challenge edited by Hank O’Neal and Ron Kurtz and revealed by Steidl. (Kurtz acquired Abbott’s archive in 1985.)

Berenice Abbott’s View from elevated platform near Lincoln Square at Columbus Avenue and Broadway, ca. 1929—31. THE UNKNOWN BERENICE ABBOTT/PUBLISHED BY STEIDL/STEIDl.COM

Berenice Abbott’s View from elevated platform close to Lincoln Square at Columbus Avenue and Broadway, ca. 1929—31.


Abbott, who died in 1991 at age ninety three, is primarily celebrated for her “Changing New York” collection from the Nineteen Thirties and for her formally progressive photographs for the Physical Science Study Committee at MIT in 1958. Even these unfamiliar together with her identify possible acknowledge her dramatic view of the Flatiron Building or her complicated tackle the inside of the old Penn Station. Yet the bulk of her work has remained unpublished.

The assortment’s first quantity, titled New York: Early Work 1929–1931, has pictures to match these in “Changing New York.” Abbott evokes the sweep and types of the town’s new skyline in View of Trinity Building and Lower Manhattan from the Empire Building and different examples; she reveals a pointy eye for civic flux with footage like Henry Kirke Brown’s statue of Abraham Lincoln in the course of the reconstruction of Union Square.

S’Neal, a photographer, writer, and former CIA agent who labored with Abbott for the final 19 years of her life, found the misplaced New York footage in 1977. At the time he was placing collectively his seminal biography Berenice Abbott: American Photographer. “I reached into the underside desk drawer of her attic storeroom,” he recollects, “and there was a field of negatives within the backside drawer. I knew fairly shortly that these have been New York footage I had by no means seen.”

The Unknown Berenice Abbott showcases the photographer’s broad curiosity in America’s man-made environments, from California logging roads to a former slave market in Georgia. Most revelatory of all is the quantity D.R.M, D.J.A., a ebook venture she had deserted for lack of a writer in 1958, the identical yr Robert Frank started his journey that yielded the landmark photograph guide The Americans. For the collection, Abbott chronicled sights alongside Route M, from Maine to Florida. Like her contemporaries Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, Abbott had a present for psychologically penetrating portraits, and her ardour for roadside structure is clear at each juncture within the journey.

If the image of Abbott’s profession has been fragmentary, it’s now turning into absolutely realized. Four extra books are within the works, with Paris Portraits scheduled to seem subsequent.

A model of this story initially appeared within the May 2014 challenge of ARTnews on web page 28 underneath M:00 pm – Source: