Paris-based photographer Eugene Atget documented the city during the turn of the 19th century: a pivotal period for social, political, and artistic spheres of life. Beginning his career in the 1880’s, Atget was constantly in conversation with the new versus the old. The rise of his career took place alongside major advancements in photography, including wider applications of industrial and commercial photography made possible by the rise of dry-plate photography and photomechanical reproduction. Despite these technological developments, Atget stuck to his bulky camera and large glass plates to capture a highly detailed record of early Parisienne architecture. Paris’s 1900 modernization campaign rid the city of its medieval structures and implemented new avenues and public parks. Atget took special interest in documenting vieux Paris (“old Paris”) so as to record the juxtaposition contrast to post-revolutionary Paris.
His work influenced 1920’s surrealism––including artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Man Ray––as well as the two generations of American photography marked by Walker Evans and Lee Friedlander.
Photographer Berenice Abbott preserved around 5,000 of Atget’s vintage prints and more than 1,000 glass plate images, which he sold to the Museum of Modern Art’s archive in 1968.