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GR-25 EUGENE ATGET PARIS (Anglais) Relié – 7 août 2008
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Il influença Berenice Abott, photographe américaine, qui le fit connaitre aux USA.
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As the introduction of the book points out, Atget was the great photographic recorder of Old Paris. It is to Paris of the turn of the 19th to the 20th century what Weegee was to lower Manhattan. The pictures in this book are nothing short of remarkable, and to look at them for any length of time helps transport one, to the extent that that is possible, to a world that no longer exists. This is not beautiful, genteel Paris. It isn't the Paris of Proust. It is more the Paris of Baudelaire fifty years down the road, the Paris of Toulouse-Latrec.
This without any question the finest inexpensive edition of Atget's photographs currently available, and since Atget is the predominant photographer of the Paris of a hundred years ago, the best inexpensive book of photographs of Old Paris.
"Born in 1857 the son of a Libourne carriage-builder, he lived for over three decades in the great metropolis of Paris, where he constantly explored the city's historic streets and squares, made contact with numerous potential buyers, and gave evening lectures in adult education centers." His original plan was to sell individual photographs of scenes and nudes to artists in order to save them the costs of traveling to the location or paying for models. He had a great many commissions and contracts to document the historic architecture of "Old Paris." His normal shooting gear included 20 kilos of equipment including a heavy-duty tripod, wooden camera and a supply of 18 X 24 cm glass negatives. He spent his entire adult life dragging this heavy burden around all of Paris and its suburbs. It was amazing he had any energy left to take his photos.
"From 1902, onwards, his visiting cards and letterheads proudly read `E. Atget, Author and Publisher of a Photographic Collection of Old Paris.'" By this time he had become a successful and much in demand photographer.
Around 1909 the Paris photographer grew tired of working on a commission basis and started publishing his work in the form of albums of prints and post cards. The subjects of the albums tended to focus on particular subjects such as "Vehicles of Paris" which was devoted to the pre-automobile means of transport used by Partisans. As the son of carriage maker, Atget had a particular affinity for these horse drawn means of transport and those pictures are some of this reviewer's favorite examples of the photographer's work. He concentrated on the old and carefully avoided the new and trendy. Photographer friend and promoter of Atget's work, Berenice Abbott who eventually purchased most of Atget's negatives and prints from his estate, counted 121 different albums of his work in 1927. Samples from these different albums and motifs are used to separate the different types of photographs reproduced in this collection. Two of my favorite sections in addition to the "Vehicles of Paris" are the so-called "bizarre series, such as portraits of prostitutes (1921), or shots of merry-go-rounds. Added to this, he made a new edition his of his photographs of shop-windows." The shop window displays look very much like the products of today and include styles of clothing that are once again coming into vogue. A neighbor of Atget, Man Ray, was one of the first photographers to take notice of Atget's work and began collecting and publishing it as well as recommending it to other artists, collectors and publishers. May Ray also shared Atget's interest in clothing mannequins, but while Atget considered all his work mere documentation of the world he lived in, Man Ray was more interested in making his photography something more. Berenice Abbott was one of May Ray's darkroom assistants and she may have introduced Ray to Atget or vice-versa since Man Ray was his neighbor?
I don't want to end this short review without also mentioning the collections of Street Fairs and the many portraits of "Salesmen and Traders on the Streets of Paris." Both chapters contain many memorable images including one of my favorites entitled 'Model-Boat hirer." That picture brings back many happy memories of my own childhood in St. Louis where I used to sail one of my grandfather's antique model boats on the lake behind the St. Louis Art Museum.
Little about Atget's personal life is known, but this volume does include an excellent year-by-year illustrated biography of what is known about his background. This is one of the more important collections of photographic history that has been published by Taschen Publishing. The book contains separate translations of the text in English, French and German. This is another nice book for the serious collectors of photography or fans of "Old Paris."
This book is a must, don't hesitate!
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