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Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott

*  1898 Springfield/Ohio
† 1990 Monson/Maine

The photographer Berenice Abbott has become world-famous for her documentary "New York Project".
Berenice Abbott, born in Springfield/Ohio in 1898 and baptized by the name "Bernice", moved to New York at the age of 20 after she had finished her studies at the State University in Ohio. Later she said that she had an "instinct" for the metropolis. For some years she made ends met with odd jobs but also as a sculptor and thus came in contact with Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. In 1921 Berenice Abbott moved to Paris. In Paris she did not only change her name to Berenice simply by adding an "e", but she soon had first success as portrait photographer, alongside a job as assistant in the darkroom at Man Ray's studio. James Joyce, Max Ernst and many more prominent personalities were among those who Berenice Abbott portrayed. The photographer, who was soon known all over Paris, had her first solo exhibition in 1926, opened a photography studio and was among the participants of the famous "Salon Indépendant de la Photographie" in 1928.
However, an event of another kind was most consequential: Berenice Abbott met Eugène Atget in the French capital and became familiarized with his photographs of Paris. She regarded the more than forty years older man so highly, that she worked on his fame after his death in 1927 by acquiring most of his photographic legacy. Today some 1,400 negatives and 7,800 prints are in possession of the New York's Museum of Modern Art
Berenice Abbott let the much-revered Eugène Atget live on even in her own work: In 1929, back in New York, she was engaged in a photographic documentation of New York after Atget's Parisian model. Initially sponsors were hard to find, so that Berenice Abbott worked only at her own expense, eventually the Federal Art Project promised financial support in 1935. The cycle, completed in 1938, undeniably is Berenice Abbott's main work, in 1939 the anthology was published with the title "Changing New York".
From 1940 on Berenice Abbott, who taught at the New School for Social Research from 1935 to 1958, primarily created scientific photography. In 1991 Berenice Abbott died in Monson at the age of 93.
In 1981 Berenice Abbott was honored with an honorary doctorate from the New School and in 1987 received the ICP Infinity Award for Master of Photography. Among the numerous solo exhibitions of her work, the show at the Chicago Art Institute (1951) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970) are most worthwhile mentioning.