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Berenice Abbott: Paris Portraits 1925–1930
Edited with text by Ron Kurtz, Hank O'Neal.
The photographs that launched Abbott's career: portraits of artists and writers in prewar Paris, from Jean Cocteau to James Joyce
This is one in a series of books to be published by Steidl that will explore Berenice Abbott’s oeuvre. Abbott began her photographic career in Paris in 1925, taking portraits of some the most celebrated artists and writers of the day, including Marie Laurencin, Jean Cocteau, Peggy Guggenheim, Coco Chanel, Max Ernst, André Gide, Philippe Soupault and James Joyce. Within a year her work was exhibited and acclaimed. Paris Portraits 1925–1930 features the results of Abbott’s earliest photographic project and illustrates the philosophy of all her subsequent work. For this landmark book, 115 portraits of 83 subjects have been scanned from the original glass negatives, which have been printed in full.
Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1898. She left Ohio State University early for New York's Greenwich Village in 1918, where she spent several years before studying in Europe. Abbott was first introduced to photography while studying sculpture in Paris; she became Man Ray's darkroom assistant and soon began her own studio, practicing primarily portrait photography. In 1929 she returned to New York, photographing its neighborhoods, buildings and residents. After a lung operation in the 1950s, on doctor's orders to escape urban pollution, Abbott resettled in Maine, where she would remain until her death in 1991.
Featured photograph, of James Joyce, is reproduced from 'Berenice Abbott: Paris Portraits 1925–1930.'
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
...it’s the uncropped plates that turn Berenice Abbott – Paris Portraits 1925-1930 into the treasure it is, one of the finest photobooks I have come across this year.
She lived with Djuna Barnes, photographed Man Ray, and taught Marcel Duchamp how to dance. Upon the release of a book showcasing her famous Paris Portraits, we discover the woman behind the camera.
The Hollywood Reporter
Inventor, entrepreneur, and "proud proto-feminist" Berenice Abbott was many things in addition to a pioneering photographer, but Steidl's gorgeous Paris Portraits 1925–1930 focuses on this discrete body of work; it's reportedly the first in a series of Abbott titles, the rest of which can't come soon enough.
New York Journal of Books
a pristine collection examining the first phase of [Abbott's] career as a portrait photographer
The Washington Post
Karly Domb Sadof
[The book] features 115 portraits of 83 subjects that have been scanned from the original glass negatives and printed in full, as well as the final crops as Abbott intended. The juxtaposing result, as O’Neal told In Sight, allows you to “see her process. You see what she is doing. You see an artist at work.”
The New York Review of Books
The subjects of Abbott’s earliest photography project, now published in full for the first time as Paris Portraits 1925-1930, are never dull—particularly the women, who, in a dismissal of her male colleague’s efforts, she aspired to capture as more than “pretty objects.”
a deeply intimate view into these quiet yet powerful photographs
There is a unity in Abbott’s portraiture—finely presented in Steidl’s indispensible Paris Portraits: 1925-1930…the ambiguity a product of the interaction between Abbott and her sitter. Her great achievement was to capture this fleeting milieu, on neither her nor her subjects’ terms exclusively, but on the fertile middle ground.
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FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 10/1/2016
Now considered one of the most important photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Eugène Atget—photographed here in 1927—was rescued from obscurity by Berenice Abbott, who spent decades fighting to establish his reputation. "I asked Atget to come by and pose for me and he did," she said in 1979 to Hank O'Neal, co-editor and author of Berenice Abbott: Paris Portraits 1925-1930, the exquisite new monograph from Steidl. "I like the side view best; I think he knew I would and I didn't have to do anything with him. He just sat down this way and I took it. That was that. I didn't need to do anything. I had no idea he was so ill; I knew he was very old but I didn't expect him to die so soon. It turned out to be one of my popular portraits." Atget died only days after this photograph was made. continue to blog
FROM THE ARTBOOK BLOG
CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 12/10/2016
Featured portrait, of Princess Eugène Murat (1930), is reproduced from Berenice Abbott: Paris Portraits 1925–1930, one of our Top 10 Holiday Gift Books for Photography Lovers, 2016.
Murat was known for throwing glamorous, unrestrained parties where twentieth-century giants like Jean Cocteau and Igor Stravinsky rubbed shoulders. Also known for a sometimes-mean temperament, she had a legendary fondness for narcotics. "This is a strong woman; a strong portrait taken in New York in 1930," Abbott writes. "She was responsible for introducing me to Harlem and the dancing at the Savoy. She was simply smoking a cigarette when I took this; there was another negative but it has been lost. I should have taken more of her. She was a good subject and I don't know why I didn't, except that I rarely went back to photograph the same people again." This book must be seen to be appreciated. It is truly exquisite.
continue to blog
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