Berenice Abbott was an American artist best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City from the 1930s.
Abbott traveled to Europe in 1921, spending two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. She first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Man Ray was impressed by her darkroom work and allowed Abbott to use his studio to shoot her own photographs. In 1925, Man Ray introduced Abbott to Eugène Atget’s photographs. She became very interested in Atget’s images, and managed to persuade him to sit for a portrait in 1927. Atget died shortly thereafter, but Abbott was able to acquire an archive of his negatives, which she promoted for decades before selling the lot to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1968.
In 1929, Abbott visited New York City, apparently to find an American publisher for Atget’s photographs. But, upon seeing the city again, she realized its great photographic potential. Accordingly, Abbott went back to Paris, closed her studio, and returned to New York that fall, producing her most iconic work throughout the 1930s.