Atget: Poetic Documentation

A failed painter and actor, Eugene Atget was known anonymously only by his photography during his life.  When his albumen process prints finally had his name attached to them the photographer had already passed away.  This is not to say that Atget was entirely unknown during his life.  Painters such as Henri Matisse and photographers such as Man Ray had known him and supported his work as part of their inspiration.

Part of Atget’s anonymity can be found in his photographs where the viewer sees only the slightest reflection of the camera in a shop window with the artist hidden by the camera’s black cloth.

I will be so bold as to suggest that part of Atget’s angle of composition in his storefront photographs was to eliminate his own reflection except when his vision required a full frontal view like the print above.  In the same vain, I have not been able to find any self portraits or photographs of Atget himself.

Atget’s work is thorough and analytical in nature, documenting sites in Paris with accuracy of detail but without losing the artistic appeal.

Atget’s representation of Paris creates a lyrical world that is descriptive of everyday life but pulls most of its strength from his thoughtful eye and picturesque sense of the created image.


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