Eugene Atget – Parc Saint-Cloud

Parc Saint-Cloud, Vase and Staircase copyright 2010 Douglas Stockdale –

I am back thinking about Eugene Atget again while re-examining the photographs I made over two days some 10+ years ago while walking Parc Saint-Cloud. As I had wrote previously about these two days, I had been doing my best to think about the photographs I had remembered that Atget had made in this Parc, fully planning to return, which due to client circumstances, I have not. Nevertheless, I have some close approximations, such as this Vase and Staircase photograph, above, which is similar to what Atget photographed in 1922, some 100 years ago.

One of the reasons why I looking at this body of work is that there is a new French restaurant in town and I am thinking about solar cyanotype printing some of the Parc Saint-Cloud photographs to pitch to the owner, who is from France, including a solar cyanotype for the photograph above.

Thus, I pulled my two reference books on Atget and Parc Saint-Cloud to help with my research, one of which is Christopher Rauschenberg’s Paris Changing and the Atget monograph edited by the late John Szarkowski in conjunction with MoMA in 2000. As to how Atget photographed the urban landscape of a park (Parc), its also informative to examine his photographs of all of the parks near Paris that he frequented as a collective whole; Parc Saint-Cloud, Parc de Versailles, Parc Bagatelle, Le Jarden du Luxembourg and Parc de Sceaux to name a few.

Likewise, we now associate Atget with the French Surrealist movement in the 1920’s, but it good to remember that Atget was a professional photographer who make pictures of things that might be of value (reference material) to painters and architects. Atget did not photograph as a Surrealist, while he was recognized by them as incorporating their concepts and ideas. A classic example is a park photograph of a statuary next to an empty bench seat, which a painter could reference for a painting. The Pictorialist would have included someone on this bench in their photograph to embody their idea. Thus, an empty bench seat was ‘strange’ for a photograph at the time, appearing ‘surreal’, as potentially representing the moment before someone arrived, or the moment after they had left. A delicious combination of mystery, suspense and visual tension. And a visual metaphor often used to this day.

Thus, one aspect of my project, like Rauschenberg, is to create ‘Atget’ images, which for me would be solar cyanotypes similar to Atget’s use of Print-Out-Paper for contact printing his large negatives. The photograph I made in Parc Saint-Cloud, above, has what I would consider a classic Atget-style composition. The details of the large vase are evident, which is sitting on the concrete pedestal, topped with a flurry of spring flowers and the background has an empty staircase in which someone might be about to walk up…the mystery and visual suspense must be building…

The flip-side of this is to consider what might Atget photograph if he were alive today? As a professional reference photographer, what might artists and painters today value or want from urban park landscapes for their contemporary work? That of course is a more vexing and open-ended question? To reframe this, what are contemporary painters today needing for reference if they were to paint something ‘realistic’ from nature to work from? Of course, the internet was not available in the 1920, so is there something that might be of interest to artist that can’t be found on today’s internet? hmmmm. That’s a pretty tricky question and not one that is easy to answer.

So maybe I will focus more on my first option above while keeping an open mind to contemporary landscape concepts. Viva la France!

Cheers & make every day an Earth Day


 The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, an artist book from Singular Images Press, Fall 2022 release, $60.00 (CA sales tax for those residing in the USA) plus shipping expenses. Message me or singularimagespress@gmail for shipping details and PayPal invoice.

Note: The Artist Special Edition (book + extra print) is Sold Out


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