Berenice Abbott

(Springfield, Ohio, 1898 - 1991, Monson, Maine)

North America, American

In her monumental series Changing New York, Berenice Abbott documented the city from 1935 through 1939, juxtaposing 19th-century buildings and brand new skyscrapers. Abbott studied briefly at The Ohio State University before moving to New York City in 1917, and then to Paris in 1921, to pursue a career as a sculptor. Fellow expatriate Man Ray, whom she had met in New York, offered her a job as his darkroom assistant. After three years developing her skills, Abbott opened her own studio and mounted her first gallery show in 1926. Through Man Ray, Abbott met Eugene Atget, an elderly photographer who spent decades photographing Paris. Upon Atget’s death, Abbott purchased the contents of his studio and worked to promote his legacy. In 1929, Abbott returned to New York. The city that greeted her was different than the one she had left nearly a decade earlier; hundreds of buildings had been demolished to make way for new construction. Inspired by Atget’s documentation of Paris, Abbott set about photographing the city. Beginning in September 1935, the Federal Art Project, a division of the Works Progress Administration, provided her a monthly stipend and the use of a vehicle to support her project. She created over 300 photographs. In the 1940s Abbot invented and patented photographic equipment, and shot photographs to illustrate science textbooks. She retired to Maine in 1961.

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