If you were to click on the label at the bottom of my posts you would discover that I have a very real passion for Photography, whether it is formal portraiture, commercial work, art photography, or found snapshots. I have a sizable & thought provoking collection of vintage photographs of men being affectionate, which I like to share with readers.
My passion for photography + my keen interest in architecture brings me to today’s birthday- Berenice Abbott. Abbott was a celebrated photographer of NYC architecture. She shot using a Century Universal Camera which produced 8 x 10 inch negatives; this large format camera was the instrument that Abbott used to photographed NYC with diligence & attention to detail. Her work has provided an historical chronicle of many now destroyed buildings & neighborhoods of Manhattan.
Abbott by Man Ray 1925
Abbott by Hank O'Neal 1979
During the Great Depression, Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Project (FAP) as a project supervisor for the Changing New York project. She would take the photographs of the city, but had assistants to help her both in the field & in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing, & exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were added to the collection at the Museum of the City of New York.
Self Portrait 1937
When she first arrived in NYC, Abbott shared an apartment in Greenwich Village with writer Djuna Barnes, philosopher Kenneth Burke, & literary critic Malcolm Cowley. She pursued journalism, but soon became interested in theater & art, inspired by her friends Eugene O'Neill & Man Ray. Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray, looking for somebody who knew nothing about photography & would do as he said, hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Abbott: "I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else." Ray was impressed by her darkroom work & allowed her to use his studio to take her own photographs.
In 1935, Abbott fell in love & moved into a Greenwich Village apartment with the art critic- Elizabeth McCausland. They were a couple for 30+ years until McCausland's death in 1965. In the early 1960s Abbott & McCausland traveled US Highway # 1 from Florida to Maine, with Abbott shooting the small town & automobile-related architecture. The project resulted in more than 2,500 photographs. Not only was Abbott a photographer, but also an inventor & innovator. She developed the distortion easel, which created unusual effects on images developed in a darkroom, & the telescopic lighting pole, known today by photographers as an "autopole," to which lights can be attached at any level.
Shortly after McCausland’s death, Abbott underwent a lung operation. She was told she should move from NYC because of the air pollution. She bought a rundown house in Maine, remaining there until her death in 1991. Abbott continued to work after her move to Maine. Her last book was A Portrait of Maine in 1968.