Atget & Reference Pictures

Please clean up after your pet copyright 2023 Douglas Stockdale –

After writing an article yesterday about Eugene Atget’s ‘reference pictures’ related to Parc Saint-Cloud, while on my morning walk adjacent to the O’Neill Wilderness Park, I was anticipating a couple of locations and compositions that might capitalize on my ideas of creating my own ‘reference pictures’ à la Atget.

The first subject was by the easiest as there is only one park bench situated situated adjacent to the O’Neill Wilderness Park that I know of. Since this park is designated a wilderness area, there are no benches or chairs located inside the boundaries. So this is the closest proximity that allows an Atget composition of the park, a tree and an empty bench, provided below, which could be a reference picture for an artist.

As an aside, although it would be safe that Atget thought of his profession as a ‘photographe’, what he provided to his clients were ‘pictures’, versus ‘photographs’, the later a term that implies having more artistic merit. Perhaps nit-picking but I liken this to saying is that person ‘naked’ or are they ‘nude’, where the work ‘naked’ infers a factual state of being ‘unclothed’ while the word ‘nude’ implies more artistic sophistication. I suspect that Atget was aware of composition as to make his pictures more appealing to his clients and perhaps help them with their potential compositions. It was later after his passing that Atget’s prints, with the help of the Surrealist and a few other ‘investors’, transcended from reference pictures to photographs.

My second subject, above, is to create a reference picture that is not the usual landscape theme and might be an object that an artist might need because it is hard to find elsewhere on the internet. I am pretty sure that there are very few pictures of receptacles to obtain the little plastic bags for picking up the doggy-droppings. So I think that this also meets the Atget requirement for a reference picture; trash barrel and bag dispenser are large enough in the foreground to see the attributes of construction, includes a background reference of a walking pathway and in true Atget compositional style, the prerequisite large tree in the background framing the objects in the foreground. And last but not least, who would hang such a picture in their living room, thus it has no artistic merit as no artistic photographer would be interested in exhibiting this. Bingo! Done.

While photographing the doggy-bad dispensers I realized that over ten years ago I completed another Atget-style series of reference pictures; the roadside memorials that eventually evolved into my series In Passing – Lest I Forget. I am pretty sure that at the time I was working on this series in 2006 – 2009, I was not thinking of Atget, while perhaps more of the typographic work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Nevertheless, when Brooks Jensen published this portfolio in Lenswork, his comment from was that he had never seen a similar body of work of something so banal and ‘unphotographic’, nevertheless, my series was a very compelling. Interestingly, when I started printing solar cyanotypes, this same series was one of the first that I returned to rework. Wow. More food for thought…

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

Bench overlook O’Neill Park copyright 2023 Douglas Stockdale


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