Berenice Abbott: Portraits of Modernity

Fundación MAPFRE. Apr. 2019. 248p. photos. notes. ISBN 9788498447040. $65. PHOTOG
In this handsomely designed monograph, photographer Abbott (1891–1991) finally receives the recognition she deserves for her trailblazing photography and early feminist career. In addition to creating her own iconic work, Abbott is also credited with discovering and preserving the images of acclaimed French photographer Eugène Atget before his death in 1927. Produced to accompany a retrospective at the Fundación Mapfre, this catalog begins with essays on Abbott’s life and focuses on three thematic areas that make up the bulk of her artistic career: “Portraits” includes famous literary figures and the New York and Parisian avant-garde; “The City” features her long-term series “Changing New York” and the work of Atget; and “Science” highlights her historically overlooked approaches to photographing scientific phenomenon. Each section showcases a significant number of beautifully reproduced black-and-white photos. The book’s sequencing also mirrors how Abbott’s personal interests in photography evolved throughout her lifetime. Especially fascinating is the chapter on science, which includes images created to illustrate physics textbooks, making Abbott one of the earliest photographers to combine art and the sciences.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all photography and photo history enthusiasts.
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