Eugene Atget: Photographer
Eugene Atget was a french documentary photographer who is known for his photographs documenting street scenes and architecture in Paris. He was born in 1857 in Bordeaux, Paris, and spent the early years of his life at sea working as a seaman. He later tried his hand at acting and quickly realized it was not for him.
Atget settled permanently in Paris in 1890, he then turned to visual arts, trying painting and photography where eventually photography became his focus. In 1898 he carried his large format view camera and photographed streets through out Paris, capturing life going on around him. He photographed people, architecture, gardens, store fronts, and public places, everything of life in Paris. He found the best time to photograph these areas was early morning. Many of the areas he photographed were soon demolished to make way for urban renewal. He was able to support himself by selling his images as studies to artists and city bureaus, while also taking on commissioned assignments. During the 1920s Atget met Bernice Abbott through his neighbour, artist Man Ray; Abbott attempted to help Atget gain recognition but with minimal success.
Atget never referred to himself as a photographer but instead author-producer and his images as documents. He was not well known during his life time, although he produced thousands of negatives and prints. After his death Abbott acquired a large portion of his work which she printed, preserved and produced an exhibit. The work she archived was purchased by Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York in 1968, since then Atget has gained recognition as a photographer and a urban historian. The MOMA published a four volume series of books on his life and work, also a retrospective of his work was held at the Biblotheque Nationale of Paris in 2007.