Monday, February 15, 2010

Rediscovering Atget...

I recently have become re-interested in the camera obscura (pinhole camera). While out testing out one of my pinhole cameras at an old abandon church (photo above), I started thinking of one of my favorite photographers, Eugene Atget.

For me Atget is where all modern photography starts. His straight forward documentary style is the beginning from which the likes of Walker Evans, Josef Sudek and William Eggleston evolved from. 

Atget's work is so primitive and but so on point with regards to the clarity of vision. He intuitively understood how the camera truly sees.  Below is a little excerpt that describes Atget's life and work.    While I believe the photos presented are not best examples of his work the writing captures what was so special about his work. 
The life and the intention of Eugene Atget are fundamentally unknown to us. A few documented facts and a handful of recollections and legends provide a scant outline of the man: He was born in Libourne, near Bordeaux, in 1857, and worked as a sailor during his youth; from the sea he turned to the stage, with no more than minor success; at forty he quit acting, and after a tentative experiment with painting Atget became a photographer, and began his true life's work. 
Eugene AtgetUntil his death thirty years later he worked quietly at his calling. To a casual observer he might have seemed a typical commercial photographer of the day. He was not progressive, but worked patiently with techniques that were obsolescent when he adopted them, and very nearly anachronistic by the time of his death. He was little given to experiment in the conventional sense, and less to theorizing. He founded no movement and attracted no circle. He did however make photographs which for purity and intensity of vision have not been bettered. 
Eugene AtgetAtget's work is unique on two levels. He was the maker of a great visual catalogue of the fruits of French culture, as it survived in and near Paris in the first quarter of this century. He was in addition a photographer of such authority and originality that his work remains a bench mark against which much of the most sophisticated contemporary photography measures itself. Other photographers had been concerned with describing specific facts (documentation), or with exploiting their indivisual sensibilities (self-expression). Atget enconpassed and transcended both approaches when he set himself the task of understanding and interpreting in visual terms a complex, ancient, and living tradition. 
Eugene AtgetThe pictures that he made in the service of this concept are seductively and deceptively simple, wholly poised, reticent, dense with experience, mysterious, and true. 


turtle said...

cool, I had no idea Atget was that old when he started documenting the changing face of Paris.

but I thought you more a "salty" Winogrand.

6ftnperfect said...

good post, thanks