Berenice Abbott

Bernice Abbott was born in July 17, 1898 in Springfield, Ohio. She was born into a culture of a oppression for women. The suffrage movements of the early 1900’s had not occurred yet, which forced her to adhere to rigid social and moral code that most women of her time obeyed. From an early age Abbott was unsatisfied with her family life with her parents’ early divorce. Abbott was forced to live with her mother while her brothers went to go live with her father. Not once did she see her brothers again. This event has been speculated as one of the main reasons of the young Abbott’s awakening and rebellion against society.
After the divorce, Abbott changed her first name from Bernice to Berenice (claiming that the extra ‘e’ made her name sound better). Such spelling of her name was of French origin. This French influence on her life would play a greater role for jump-starting one of her great works of the 1930’s. After formal education, she moved to New York City to ‘reinvent herself’. There, she studied art; especially sculpture. She later found sculpture to boring and a non gratifying form of art. She furthered her rebellion by moving to Paris to study more art; she was still single and but not alone. She eventually studied with a man named Ray Man in the art of photography. She had no initial experience in the art, but was glad to be freed of the shackles of boring sculpture. She spent about three years studying and practicing photographic techniques in depth. Eventually she became a master photographer and developed a keen eye for good photos making a solid reputation within the Paris art scene and as a photographer in general. She also showed favoritism towards black monochrome pictures. Her most famous work during this time was portrait shots of famous composers and people of royal decent (including the granddaughter of Napoleon III), and allowing their character to show more than their outside appearances. Later in life, Abbott’s keen eye helped her make a purchase of a life time to help achieve her future ambitions.
Later on after realizing photography was her ‘thing’, her eye was caught by some pictures of poor French photographer named Eugène Atget. At the time he was barley able to support himself with his photos of buildings and other edifices in Paris. Abbott immediately saw his originality and potential of his art. Shortly after Atget had died (1927), Abbott purchased his total collection of artwork in progress and finished. After making this large purchase to help further her as a an artist, she returned to New York City as a women with an ambitious goal of capturing the city and all of its components. Her finish product would be called Changing New York. Around the mid 1900’s (during Abbott’s construction of her massive project), there was a large building/renovation boom. Abbott sought hard to capture important buildings and obsolete structures (ex. fire ladders), along with people’s modes of transportation and places of interactions. Unfortunatley, even with all her success in this photographic project, her full plans never came to fruition due to her bulky camera needed to take high quality pictures, and lighting conditions inside of buildings (such as night clubs and the resultant night life that takes place within). Overall, this is Berenice Abbott’s main success in photography that when her name is uttered, her project Changing New York is what is associated with her.

Below are some of Abbot's original pictures in her project Changing New York pictures provided by:

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Good biography but you are missing your critique and your emulation

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