Berenice Abbot (1898–1991) is best known for her work in the fields of architecture, portraiture, and science. She first learned photography in Paris, as an assistant to Man Ray. It was at his studio where she also encountered work by Eugène Atget (1857–1927), who in turn played an influential role in her practice. Abbot was committed to modernity and capturing the poetry of the moment, whether through inventing new techniques for taking pictures of physics experiments or shooting the streets of New York. This book casts a fascinating look back at her writings, combining precise instructions and theoretical content in texts aimed towards either professionals or amateurs.
This publication comprises four of Abbott’s key writings on the medium: Photography and Science (1939), A Guide to Better Photography (1941), The View Camera Made Simple (1948), and The World of Atget (1964), functioning as a guide to immersing oneself in the world of photography. These texts, slightly edited to avoid potential overlaps and some highly technical chapters that may not be so interesting to contemporary readers, provide extraordinary theoretical content, precise instructions for taking a good picture and how to acquire the visual tools to do it, and invite reflection upon the difference and responsibility of owning a camera in those days versus today.
As Estrella de Diego explains in the introduction, ‘Now that photography has become a practice that is mostly fun and accessible to everyone, an activity that doesn’t require technique or even much skill, it is fascinating to look back upon the writings of Berenice Abbott, one of the photographers who was most committed to modernity. In fact, throughout all her life, Abbott was determined to earn her living making photos, which was very uncommon for a woman in the 1920s and 30s.’