Eugene Atget

cour 7 rue de Valencia“, 1922, Eugene Atget, courtesy of MOMA

Always interesting in how one thing leads to another. So how does this all start, eh?

Recently my work has been likened to the photographs of Walker Evans and a use of space similar to Eugene Atget.  Which is very interesting, in as Atget is usually thought of as proceeding the work of Walker Evans. And now I understand that this direct way of photographing (seeing) was subsequently a part of the photographic way of seeing as that of Robert Frank and then Gary Winogrand, but perhaps not with the same way of using space.

I had a broad collection of books that may have had an image or two of Atget, but now I really wanted to have a dedicated resource to read and study to further understand Atget’s way of looking at something.

Thus I recently purchased a “used” copy of the 2001 MOMA book by John Szarkowski titled Atget. I say “used” because it was off the used sales page of AbeBooks, but essentially the book had never been opened or read in its entirety (a bit of book binding glue holding together the very top edge of the last eight pages, which would not be intact if someone had at least read the book once). So thank you for the referral to Abebooks by the nice folks at the Joesph Bellows Gallery and I can recommend AbeBooks for at least having a good first experience.

So I have walked through the photographs twice in this book and just completed my first read of Szarkowski. At first I had hoped for a little more analysis or deconstruction of the photograph by Szarkowski, but now realize that Szarkowski was helping to frame the external context of the photographs as much as describing the photographs attributes.

I sense that after I go through my Walker Evans book, that I will be coming back to this one again. And I will not be writing notes in the margins of my photobook this time either ;- )

Best regards, Douglas

5 thoughts on “Eugene Atget

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  1. Thank you, I was really taken back by the reference (in a very positive way). Althought both Atget and Evans photographs have alwasy emotionally resonnated within me, I found myself wanting to dig deeper as to why.

    One of my fears is that I might understand it too well, such that it becomes a formula, which is a form of certain creative death. But to understand it enought to try to build on and experiement with it, has the potential for creative growth and personal discovery.

  2. Eugene Atget has been a hero to me for many years. To have taken over 10’000 plates of old Paris throughout his career shows a character that just isn’t apparent in this world. I recently photographed all of the bridges of the River Seine using almost the opposite equipment that Atget would have used (i.e. a tiny bellows half frame) and found the task amazingly difficult, so how he acheived the mammoth task that he set himself I just cannot fathom.

    I visit the Atget gallery in paris quite often and there a particular group of images, such as the “cour 7 rue de Valencia“ above, that show the modern world encroaching into area’s of past times. I’m sure Atget would have seen it and wondered what the future held.

    I tried to find out where he is buried by asking at the Biblotech Nationale, but nobody knew where. It was a shame that someone so inspirational seems to have gone missing, temporarily I hope because I’d like to leave a camera on his grave stone.

    Best Wishes

    Colin Hall :-)

    1. I’m doing a series in Paris in September based on Atget’s works. Colin did you ever find where Atget was buried? I can find no record, and yes I’d like to leave a camera on his grave as well.

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