Atget’s Paris of the Early 20th Century

If you are unable to get to the amazing show of Eugene Atget’s early 20th century photography of Paris (at the Musee Carnavalet), make sure to peep this trailer (scroll down) for a film by Swim Cinema, which features plenty of amazing images and an interview with Berenice Abbott, the noted American photographer who was also a champion of the Frenchman’s work.

A paradox of the exhibition is that Atget documented what he felt was tragically fading from Paris, such as rag-pickers living on the edge of town and pre-Haussmann streets. Yet one of the feelings that comes over you as you wind your way through the museum’s small rooms is one of recognition. A lot of Paris has in fact not changed that much. And while Atget, quite the businessman, sold his photos as documents (as opposed to art), they are shockingly beautiful. Lastly, Atget was dramatic in the notes he pencilled next to images he collected into albums, along the lines of, “About to be torn down,” and “Never to be seen again.” And yet this show is not part of an acquired collection. It is housed in the very same museum had bought Atget’s work–in the early 1900s. So, on display, too, are invoices for Atget’s goods. Pretty cool.

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