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Berenice Abbott
© Hank O'Neal in New York City, 18 November 1979
Berenice Abbott
Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott

Country: United States
Birth: 1898 | Death: 1991

Abbott was born and raised in Ohio where she endured an erratic family life. In 1918, after two semesters at Ohio State University, she left to join friends associated with the Provincetown Players, in Greenwich Village. There she met Djuna Barnes, Kenneth Burke, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Little Review editors Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and other influential modernists. From 1919-1921, while studying sculpture, Abbott supported herself as an artist's model, posing for photographers Nikolas Muray and Man Ray. She also met Marcel Duchamp, and participated in Dadaist publications.

Abbott moved to Paris in 1921, where she continued to study sculpture (and in Berlin), and to support herself by modeling. During 1923-1926, she worked as Man Ray's darkroom assistant (he had also relocated to Paris) and tried portrait photography at his suggestion. Abbott's first solo exhibition, in 1926, launched her career. In 1928 she rescued and began to promote Eugène Atget's photographic work, calling his thirty years of Parisian streetscapes and related studies "realism unadorned. "

In 1929 Abbott took a new artistic direction to tackle the scope (if not the scale) of Atget's achievement in New York City. During 1929-38, she photographed urban material culture and the built environment of New York, documenting the old before it was torn down and recording new construction. From 1934-58, she also taught photography at the New School. During 1935-39, Abbott worked as a "supervisor" for the Federal Art Project to create Changing New York (her free-lance work and New School teaching commitment made her ineligible for unemployment relief) .

From 1939-60, Abbott photographed scientific subjects, concluding with her notable illustrations for the MIT-originated Physical Sciences Study Committee's revolutionary high school physics course. In 1954, she photographed along the length of US 1; the work never found a publisher. In 1968, Abbott sold the Atget archive to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and moved permanently to her home in central Maine (bought in 1956 and restored over several decades) .

1970 saw Abbott's first major retrospective exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art. Her first retrospective portfolio appeared in 1976, and she received the International Center of Photography's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. She died at home in Monson, Maine in December 1991.

Source: New York Public Library


Born in Springfield, Ohio, Berenice Abbott spent the early part of her artistic career studying sculpture in New York, Berlin, and Paris, where she worked as Man Ray's studio assistant. This experience led her to photography, and in 1926 she established herself as an independent photographer whose portraits of well-known artists and writers rivaled those of Man Ray in excellence and renown. Through Man Ray, she met Eugène Atget, whose photographs of the transformation of Paris from the ancien regime through the mid-1920s impressed her with their methodical technique and intuitive inflections of artistry. Upon Atget's death, Abbott purchased his photographic oeuvre, and for more than forty years tirelessly promoted his work. It is largely through her efforts that this great photographer is still known today. In 1929, Abbott returned to the United States, where she embarked on her best-known body of work--a documentation of New York City for which she developed her famous bird's-eye and worm's-eye points-of-view. She worked on the project independently through the early years of the Depression, and in 1935, secured funding from the Federal Art Project (a part of the Works Progress Administration). Her pictures were published as Changing New York (1939), which was both critically and commercially successful; it remains a classic text for historians of photography. One of Abbott's later final projects was an illustration of scientific phenomenon, produced in the 1950s in collaboration with the Physical Sciences Study Committee based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although not as well known as her New York work, these pictures are exquisite examples of her acumen for technical experimentation and her natural instinct for combining factual photographic detail with stunning artistic accomplishment. With their clear visual demonstration of abstract scientific principles, the photographs were chosen to illustrate physics textbooks of the 1950s and 1960s.

Source: International Center of Photography


 

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Russell Lee
United States
1903 | † 1986
Russell Lee (July 21, 1903, Ottawa, Illinois – August 28, 1986, Austin, Texas) was an American photographer and photojournalist, best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). His technically excellent images documented the ethnography of various American classes and cultures. Lee grew up in Ottawa, Illinois and went to the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana for high school. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.(Source: en.wikipedia.org) He gave up an excellent position as a chemist to become a painter. Originally he used photography as a precursor to his painting, but soon became interested in photography for its own sake, recording the people and places around him. Among his earliest subjects were Pennsylvanian bootleg mining and the Father Divine cult. In the fall of 1936, during the Great Depression, Lee was hired for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographic documentation project of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He joined a team assembled under Roy Stryker, along with Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Walker Evans. Stryker provided direction and bureaucratic protection to the group, leaving the photographers free to compile what in 1973 was described as "the greatest documentary collection which has ever been assembled." Lee created some of the iconic images produced by the FSA, including photographic studies of San Augustine, Texas in 1939, and Pie Town, New Mexico in 1940. Over the spring and summer of 1942, Lee was one of several government photographers to document the eviction of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, producing over 600 images of families waiting to be removed and their later life in various detention facilities. After the FSA was defunded in 1943, Lee served in the Air Transport Command (ATC), during which he took photographs of all the airfield approaches used by the ATC to supply the Armed Forces in World War II. He worked for the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) in 1946 and 1947, helping the agency compile a medical survey in the communities involved in mining bituminous coal. He created over 4,000 photographs of miners and their working conditions in coal mines. In 1946, Lee completed a series of photos focused on a Pentecostal Church of God in a Kentucky coal camp. While completing the DOI work, Lee also continued to work under Stryker, producing public relations photographs for Standard Oil of New Jersey. Some 80,000 of those photographs have been donated by Exxon Corporation to the University of Louisville in Kentucky. In 1947 Lee moved to Austin, Texas and continued photography. In 1965 he became the first instructor of photography at the University of Texas. In addition to the materials at the University of Louisville, other important collections of Lee's work are held by the New Mexico Museum of Art,[6] Wittliff collections, Texas State University and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.
Bruce Davidson
United States
1933
Bruce Davidson began taking photographs at the age of ten in Oak Park, Illinois. While attending Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, he continued to further his knowledge and develop his passion. He was later drafted into the army and stationed near Paris. There he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founders of the renowned cooperative photography agency, Magnum Photos. When he left military service in 1957, Davidson worked as a freelance photographer for LIFE magazine and in 1958 became a full member of Magnum. From 1958 to 1961 he created such seminal bodies of work as “The Dwarf,” Brooklyn Gang,” and “Freedom Rides.” He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1962 and created a profound documentation of the civil rights movement in America. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented his early work in a solo show. In 1967, he received the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts, having spent two years witnessing the dire social conditions on one block in East Harlem. This work was published by Harvard University Press in 1970 under the title East 100th Street and was later republished and expanded by St. Ann’s Press. The work became an exhibition that same year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1980, he captured the vitality of the New York Metro’s underworld that was later published in a book, Subway, and exhibited at the International Center for Photography in 1982. From 1991-95 he photographed the landscape and layers of life in Central Park. In 2006, he completed a series of photographs titled “The Nature of Paris,” many of which have been shown and acquired by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Davidson received an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship in 1998 to return to East 100th Street His awards include the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography in 2004 and a Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club in 2007. Classic bodies of work from his 50-year career have been extensively published in monographs and are included in many major public and private fine art collections around the world. He continues to photograph and produce new bodies of work.Source: Magnum Photos
Beth Moon
United States
1956
San Francisco Bay Area artist, Beth Moon, has gained international recognition for her large-scale, richly toned platinum prints. Since 1999, Moon’s work has appeared in more than sixty solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Italy, England, France, Israel, Brazil, Dubai, Singapore, and Canada. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, and the Fox Talbot Museum in Wiltshire, England. In 2013, Between Earth and Sky, the first monograph of her work, was published by Charta Art Books of Milan. In 2014, Abbeville Press published, Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time, with a third book to follow that same year from Galerie Vevais, La Lange Verte. Moon studied fine art at the University of Wisconsin before moving to England where she experimented with alternative photographic processes and learned to make platinum prints. Source: www.vervegallery.com Beth Moon was born in Neenah, Wisconsin and studied fine art at the University of Wisconsin. Classes in painting, life drawing, sculpture, and design would set the groundwork for her work in photography, which was to come years later. Moving to England, a country with a love for all things arboreal, gave her a fresh look at a land that boasts the largest concentration of ancient trees. Inspired by these trees she decided to make a series of their portraits. Unhappy with the photographic tonality and stability of ink-jet printing, she started to experiment with alternative printing processes, learning platinum/palladium printing, an ideal process for her vision. She concentrated on mastering this printing technique, doing all of her own printing. “By using the longest lasting photographic process, I hope to speak about survival, not only of man and nature’s but to photography’s survival as well. For each print I mix ground platinum and palladium metals, making a tincture that is hand-coated onto heavy watercolor paper and exposed to light. There are many steps involved in creating the final print and these are as important to me as the capturing of the image," said Moon. A platinum print can last for centuries, drawing on the common theme of time and survival, pairing photographic subject and process. Source: www.josephsaxton.com
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