Eugène Atget (1857-1927) spent nearly thirty years photographing details of often-inconspicuous buildings, side streets, cul-de-sacs, and public sculptures in his beloved Paris. Yet before his death, he was practically unknown outside of that city. His genius was first recognized about 1924 by two young Americans living and working in Paris, Man Ray and his studio assistant, Berenice Abbott, who recognized the elements of contradiction, ambivalence, and ambiguity in Atget's images of Parisian architecture, streets, and parks.
Presented in this volume are more than fifty of the Getty Museum's two hundred ninety-five pictures by Atget, with commentary on each image by Gordon Baldwin, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. In Focus: Eugène Atget
also contains a chronological overview of his life and an edited transcript of a colloquium on his career, with participants Baldwin; David Featherstone, independent editor and curator; photographer Robbert Flick, professor of art at the University of Southern California; independent scholar David Harris; Weston Naef, curator of photographs, Getty Museum; Françoise Reynaud, curator of photographs at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris; and Michael S. Roth, associate director of the Getty Research Institute. This volume of the In Focus series is published to coincide with an exhibit of Atget's images from June 20 through October 18, 2000, at the Getty Museum.
Born in 1857 in Bordeaux, Eugène Atget
was the son of a carriage maker, but was soon orphaned and went to live with an uncle. He studied at the Conservatory of the French National Theatre in Paris, and after a number of years working as an actor, he turned to photography at the age of forty-two. He rapidly became absorbed in a documentary project which, over the last thirty years of his life, resulted in more than ten thousand glass-plate negatives of turn-of-the-century Paris and its rural environs. Atget's photographs are now considered early masterpieces of photographic realism. He died in 1927 at the age of seventy in Paris.