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Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography
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Published:
W. W. Norton & Company 2018
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Description

The comprehensive biography of the iconic twentieth-century American photographer Berenice Abbott, a trailblazing documentary modernist, author, and inventor.


Berenice Abbott is to American photography as Georgia O'Keeffe is to painting or Willa Cather to letters. She was a photographer of astounding innovation and artistry, a pioneer in both her personal and professional life. Abbott's sixty-year career established her not only as a master of American photography, but also as a teacher, writer, archivist, and inventor. Famously reticent in public, Abbott's fascinating life has long remained a mystery—until now.


In Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography, author, archivist, and curator Julia Van Haaften brings this iconic public figure to life alongside outlandish, familiar characters from artist Man Ray to cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener. A teenage rebel from Ohio, Abbott escaped first to Greenwich Village and then to Paris—photographing, in Sylvia Beach's words, "everyone who was anyone." As the Roaring Twenties ended, Abbott returned to New York, where she soon fell in love with art critic Elizabeth McCausland, with whom she would spend thirty years.


In the 1930s, Abbott began her best-known work, Changing New York, in which she fearlessly documented the city's metamorphosis. When warned by an older male supervisor that "nice girls" avoid the Bowery—then Manhattan's skid row—Abbott shot back, "I'm not a nice girl. I'm a photographer...I go anywhere." This bold, feminist attitude would characterize all Abbott's accomplishments, including imaging techniques she invented in her influential, space race–era science photography and her tenure as The New School's first photography teacher.


With more than ninety stunning photos, this sweeping, cinematic biography secures Berenice Abbott's place in the histories of photography and modern art, while framing her incredible accomplishments as a female artist and entrepreneur.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
04/10/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393292794
ASIN:
B073VXDLTV
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Julia Van Haaften. (2018). Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Julia Van Haaften. 2018. Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Julia Van Haaften, Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography. W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Julia Van Haaften. Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography. W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 16:24:08
Date Updated:
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fullDescription

The comprehensive biography of the iconic twentieth-century American photographer Berenice Abbott, a trailblazing documentary modernist, author, and inventor.

Berenice Abbott is to American photography as Georgia O'Keeffe is to painting or Willa Cather to letters. She was a photographer of astounding innovation and artistry, a pioneer in both her personal and professional life. Abbott's sixty-year career established her not only as a master of American photography, but also as a teacher, writer, archivist, and inventor. Famously reticent in public, Abbott's fascinating life has long remained a mystery—until now.

In Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography, author, archivist, and curator Julia Van Haaften brings this iconic public figure to life alongside outlandish, familiar characters from artist Man Ray to cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener. A teenage rebel from Ohio, Abbott escaped first to Greenwich Village and then to Paris—photographing, in Sylvia Beach's words, "everyone who was anyone." As the Roaring Twenties ended, Abbott returned to New York, where she soon fell in love with art critic Elizabeth McCausland, with whom she would spend thirty years.

In the 1930s, Abbott began her best-known work, Changing New York, in which she fearlessly documented the city's metamorphosis. When warned by an older male supervisor that "nice girls" avoid the Bowery—then Manhattan's skid row—Abbott shot back, "I'm not a nice girl. I'm a photographer...I go anywhere." This bold, feminist attitude would characterize all Abbott's accomplishments, including imaging techniques she invented in her influential, space race–era science photography and her tenure as The New School's first photography teacher.

With more than ninety stunning photos, this sweeping, cinematic biography secures Berenice Abbott's place in the histories of photography and modern art, while framing her incredible accomplishments as a female artist and entrepreneur.

reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        February 5, 2018
        Van Haaften, founding curator of the New York Public Library’s photography collection, presents a thorough and enticing examination of the life of Berenice Abbott (1898–1991), a master of American modernist photography. She begins with Abbott’s unhappy Ohio childhood in an “atmosphere of constant rejection” that motivated her to move away, first to New York, and then to Paris where she was hired to work in Man Ray’s darkroom. Abbott’s portraiture earned her esteem in Paris, but her renown intensified when she returned to New York in 1930 to capture its ever-evolving contours in the series Changing New York. Van Haaften elucidates Abbott’s unique aesthetic, a style that is both documentary and emotive, as well as her ability to “achieve formal rigor and simultaneously convey... magical ethereality.” The photographer’s personal life proves equally robust, as she struggled with her own sexuality before accepting it and spending the greater part of her life with writer and critic Elizabeth McCausland. Van Haaften explores in detail Abbott’s lifelong pursuit of the money and recognition she deserved, but which proved particularly elusive due to her gender and sexuality. The result is a full and nuanced portrait of a complicated, hardworking, and creatively brilliant artist. Photos.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        March 15, 2018
        Van Haaften (From Talbot to Stieglitz: Masterpieces of Early Photography from the New York Public Library, 1982, etc.) seeks to evoke the genius of visionary photographer Berenice Abbott (1898-1991).Born in Springfield, Ohio, Abbott left college at 19 to move to Greenwich Village, where she embarked on an exemplary life in the avant-garde. Originally a sculptor, she turned to photography in Paris in the early 1920s, after becoming an assistant to her friend Man Ray. In 1925, she experienced an epiphany when she discovered the work of photography pioneer Eugène Atget. Atget's images "sparked in her 'a sudden flash of recognition' the shock of realism unadorned.' " Not only did Abbott negotiate the purchase of Atget's archive--a mixed blessing, it turned out, for a variety of reasons--she found her place behind the lens. Within a decade, she had made the magnificent Night View, New York, an extended-exposure nightscape of midtown Manhattan taken from an aerie in the Empire State Building. "I'm sort of sensitive to cities," she is quoted as saying, more than once, in this biography. "They have a personality." If only the same were true of Van Haaften's writing, which is too often pedestrian, a recitation of facts without enough of the interpretive urgency an artist of Abbott's caliber deserves. Certainly, the book is comprehensive, and the author populates the narrative with a who's who of 20th-century cultural heroes, from James Joyce to Jackie Onassis. Still, if Van Haaften dutifully cataloges the particulars of her subject's experience, she is unable to explore the artist at the level of her soul. The Abbott who emerges here is made up of data points: a lesbian, targeted by the House Un-American Activities Commission for her left-wing politics, scared of heights, disdainful of the trickery of art. What's missing is excitement and a sense of discovery.Despite the useful information she has gathered, Van Haaften never brings Abbott fully to life.

        COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from April 1, 2018
        Chided for wearing pants while taking pictures of New York City as part of the Federal Art Project in the 1930s, and told that nice girls don't go to rough places, Abbott responded, I'm not a nice girl. I'm a photographer . . . I go anywhere. And everywhere she went, Abbott took photographs of stunning precision, exacting composition, and exhilarating energy. Van Haaften, founding curator of the New York Public Library's photography collection, chronicles Abbott's demanding life and extraordinary accomplishments with scrupulous detail, tracking Abbott through her impoverished, fractured Ohio childhood, brief stint in college, and bold forays in Greenwich Village and 1920s Paris. Fascinated by science and technology, Abbott reveled in realism unadorned and was profoundly inspired by the Parisian street photography of Eug�ne Atget, whom she met just before his death and whose invaluable archive she acquired and found to be both boon and burden. Back in New York, Abbott struggled against sexual discrimination and was on guard against even worse treatment as a lesbian. Outspoken and rigorous, she was an artist of radical vision, a teacher, and an inventor and entrepreneur far ahead of her time. Van Haaften's expert foundational biography brings Abbott into sharp focus as a photographer able to express deep feeling through technical mastery. (Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2018

        Photography curator Van Haaften's biography of Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) rightly positions her as one of the most important photographers of the 20th century. Raised by a single mother, Abbot experienced an unhappy childhood. She moved to New York City to study sculpture and was drawn to the subcultures and bohemian literary figures of Greenwich Village. Living in Paris, she discovered photography and worked as Man Ray's assistant; she also met the documentary photographer Eugene Atget shortly before his death in 1925 and spent the next several years promoting his work. Abbott returned to New York and began a long-term documentary project on Manhattan, culminating in 1939's Changing New York. Van Haaften spent several years interviewing Abbott in her Maine home; the result is an intimate view of Abbott's approach to photography as well as her personal life, including her 30-year relationship with art critic Elizabeth McCausland. VERDICT For photography, art history, and women's studies enthusiasts. [See "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/1/18.]--Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA

        Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2018

        From celebrities in Roaring Twenties Paris to rapidly changing 1930s New York to key scientific moments in the 1950s, Berenice Abbott made images that shaped how we still see her world. By the founding curator of the New York Public Library's photography collection; with 100 photographs.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription

The comprehensive biography of the iconic twentieth-century American photographer Berenice Abbott, a trailblazing documentary modernist, author, and inventor.

Berenice Abbott is to American photography as Georgia O'Keeffe is to painting or Willa Cather to letters. She was a photographer of astounding innovation and artistry, a pioneer in both her personal and professional life. Abbott's sixty-year career established her not only as a master of American photography, but also as a teacher, writer, archivist, and inventor. Famously reticent in public, Abbott's fascinating life has long remained a mystery—until now.

In Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography, author, archivist, and curator Julia Van Haaften brings this iconic public figure to life alongside outlandish, familiar characters from artist Man Ray to cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener. A teenage rebel from Ohio, Abbott escaped first to Greenwich Village and then to...

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      • description: Photography / History