The life and the intention of Eugene Atget are fundamentally unknown to us. A few documented facts and a handful of recollections and legends provide a scant outline of the man:
He was born in Libourne, near Bordeaux, in 1857, and worked as a sailor during his youth; from the sea he turned to the stage, with no more than minor success; at forty he quit acting, and after a tentative experiment with painting Atget became a photographer, and began his true life's work.
Until his death thirty years later he worked quietly at his calling. To a casual observer he might have seemed a typical commercial photographer of the day. He was not progressive, but worked patiently with techniques that were obsolescent when he adopted them, and very nearly anachronistic by the time of his death. He was little given to experiment in the conventional sense, and less to theorizing. He founded no movement and attracted no circle. He did however make photographs which for purity and intensity of vision have not been bettered.
- Brooklyn Museum: Photography
- Photography Collection : The Art Institute of Chicago
- Afghanistan Photographic Collection
- UW Libraries Digital Collections
- Denver Public Library: Western History Genealogy
- Shetland Museum and Archives Photo Library
- Australian Centre for Photography
- Japanese Old Photographs Bakumatsu-Meiji Periods
- Carte-de-Visite, Victorian Photographs
- American Photography
- Americans from the Great Depression
- Selected Civil War Photographs Home Page
- Photography - National Media Museum
- Library Photographic Archive
- MOMA.org The Collection Photography
- Picturing the Century
- Getty Museum Photographs Collection
- Smithsonian Photography Initiative
- Photography Collection : Victoria and Albert Museum
- Old Pictures
- The Photographic Resource Center (PRC)
- Southeast Museum of Photography
- Center for Creative Photography
- Light Work
- Blue Sky Gallery
- Fotoperiodismo Mexicano
- Women in Photography International
- Moscow House of Photography
- Metropolitan Museum Photo Collection
- American Indians of the Pacific Northwest
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Smithsonian Flickr Photo Collection
- SFMOMA Collection Photography
- George Eastman House Photography Collection
- Photography Collections Online:Header2.jpg
- Oriental institute Photo Collection
- Florida Photographic Collection
- International Center of Photography
- The Museum of Contemporary Photography
- Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection
- American Museum of Photography
- National Gallery of Canada Photography Collection
- Houston Center for Photography
- Albumen Photographs
- IDEA Photographic | After Modernism
- Amsterdam Photography Museum (FOAM)
- Guggenheim Photography
- Nikon Small World
- Dogon Niger Lobi
- Magnum Photos
- TIME - News photos and photo essays.
- LIFE - Your World in Pictures
- National Geographic Photography
- Indian Raj British Indian Photography
- Look At Me
- When They Were Young
- Europe -Albania - Austria - Andorra - Armenia - Azerbaijan - Belarus - Belgium - Bulgaria - Bosnia And Herzegovina - Croatia - Czech Republic - Denmark - Estonia - Finland - France - Germany - Greece - Hungary - Iceland - Italy - Ireland - Latvia - Lithuania - Luxembourg - Monaco - Netherlands - Norway - Poland - Portugal - Romania - Russia - Serbia - Slovak Republic - Slovenia - Spain - Sweden - Switzerland - Ukraine - United Kingdom - Vatican City
- North America -United States - Canada
- South America -Antigua And Barbuda - Argentina - Bahamas - Barbados - Belize - Bolivia - Brazil - Chile - Colombia - Honduras - Mexico - Peru
- Oceania -Australia - Fiji - New Zealand
- Asia -Bangladesh - Bhutan - Brunei Darussalam - Cambodia - Hong Kong - India - Indonesia - Japan - Macau - Malaysia - Nepal - Singapore - Taiwan - Thailand - Viet Nam
- Middle East -Afghanistan - Bahrain - Iran - Israel - Kuwait - Lebanon - Turkey
- Africa -Algeria - Angola - Benin - Botswana - Burkina Faso - Burundi - Cameroon - Cape Verde - Central African Republic - Chad - Comoros - Egypt - Kenya - South Africa
Most photographers of the past generation have demonstrated unlimited sympathy for the victims of villainous or imperfect societies, but very little sympathy for, or even interested in, those who are afflicted by their own human frailty.
Robert Doisneau is one of the few whose work has demonstrated that even in a time of large terrors, the ancient weaknesses and sweet venial sins of ordinary individuals have survived. On the basis of his pictures one would guess that Doisneau actually likes people, even as they really are.
It has already been pointed out that photographs often appear to mean something quite different from what the event itself would have meant had we been there.
It is conceivable that the gentleman in the picture below is simply telling the girl that he no longer needs her at the shop, due to business being slow. Regardless of historic fact, however, a picture is about what it appears to be about, and this picture is about a potential seduction.
Berenice Abbott was one of the tiny horde of Midwestern Yankee Americans who in the 1920's temporarily reversed the Course of Empire, and transferred the center of American cultural life to Paris. She arrived there in 1921 as a sculptor, and continued her studies with Emile Bourdelle. In 1923 she became an assistant in the photography studio of Man Ray, and two years later she first saw the photographs of Eugene Atget. She was irrevocably marked by the pure photographic authority of his work, and any remaining question as to her own life's work was settled.
In 1926 she opened her own portrait studio, and for the next three years photographed with honesty and grace the great and the famous of that city's intellectual world. In Paris the supply of artists, artistic celebrities, and salonistes seemed inexhaustible, and Abbott photographed many of them.
Most good artists have spent their lives exploring one idea: transposing, adjusting, and refining it, applying it to different specific problems, disassembling and reconstructing in all possible configurations the component parts of the basic conception.
In photography, perhaps because of the speed with which the medium itself has changed, only a very few workers have been able to maintain the vitality and plasticity of their conception for a full working lifetime. The genuinely creative period of most photographers of exceptional talent has rarely exceeded ten or fifteen years.
Alfred Stieglitz (like his younger friend and rival Edward Steichen) is a conspicuous exception to the rule. Stieglitz (like Steichen) avoided stagnation not by remaining constant to a single concept throughout his long lifetime, but rather by pausing at least twice in his maturity to consider his goal and rechart his course. Stieglitz lived at least three lifetimes as a photographer, each producing a body of work that was formidable and distinct from others.
Until Stieglitz was past forty, most of his photographs were strongly influenced by aesthetic values inherited from traditional painting. Only occasionally did his interest in difficult technical problems lead him to radically photographic imagery.
Photography has generally been defended on the ground that it is useful, in the sense that the McCormick reaper and quinine have been useful. Excellent and persuasive arguments have been developed in this spirit; these are well known and need not be repeated here. It should be added however that some of the very best photography is useful only as juggling, theology, or pure mathematics is useful --- that is to say, useless, except as nourishment for the human spirit.
When Lee Friedlander made the photograph reproduced here he was playing a kind of game. The game is of undetermined social utility and might on the surface seem almost frivolous. The rules of the game are so tentative that they are automatically (though subtly) amended each time the game is successfully played. The chief arbiter of the game is Tradition, which records in a haphazard fashion the results of all previous games, in order to make sure that no play that won before will be allowed to win again. The point of the game is to know, love, and serve sight, and the basic strategic problem is to find a new kind of clarity within the prickly thickets of unordered sensation. When one match is successfully completed, the player can move on to a new prickly thicket.
During the early 1940's Helen Levitt made many photographs on the streets of New York. Her photographs were not intended to tell a story or document a social thesis; she worked in poor neighborhoods because there were people there, and a street life that was richly sociable and visually interesting.
Levitt's pictures report no unusual happenings; most of them show the games of children, the errands and conversations of the middle-aged, and the observant waiting of the old. What is remarkable about the photographs is that these immemorially routine acts of life, practiced everywhere and always, are revealed as being full of grace, drama, humor, pathos, and surprise, and also that they are filled with the qualities of art, as though the street were a stage, and its people were all actors and actresses, mimes, orators, and dancers.