Indepth Arts News: |
"The Man in the Street: Eugene Atget in Paris"
2000-06-20 until 2000-10-08
J. Paul Getty Center
LOS ANGELES, CA,
The Man in the Street: Eugene Atget in Paris, is an enthralling and
highly personal visual guide to Paris created by the now-celebrated photographer Eugène
Atget (1856-1927). Running from June 20 through October 8, 2000 at the J. Paul Getty
Museum in Los Angeles, this fascinating exhibition highlights selected photographs that Atget
produced from about 1897 until 1927-the results of his obsessive pursuit of the essential
appearance of the city of Paris. His work influenced younger photographers including Man
Ray, Walker Evans, and Berenice Abbott, whose fascination with city scenes would carry
forward the spirit of Atget's work.
Drawn entirely from the Getty Museum collection, the exhibition includes more than 80 of
Atget's images captured during his self-devised and eccentric photographic campaign, which
documented aspects of Paris and the daily life of its ordinary citizens that have since
changed or disappeared. From sidewalk displays, shop windows, staircases, sculptures, and
gardens to ragpickers and children at play in parks, Atget systematically collected a Paris
little seen by tourists and seldom frequented by the affluent. To complement the exhibition,
the Getty is publishing a new book about Atget in its In Focus photography series.
Orphaned early and independent by necessity, Atget became a photographer after brief stints
as a seaman and an actor. At first, the documents for artists that Atget made were
studies of plants, animals, and landscapes, intended to be used by painters, illustrators,
architects, and decorators. He soon began a series of solitary pilgrimages through the
streets of Paris, toting a heavy, tripod-mounted camera and a supply of old-fashioned
glass-plate negatives, consistently making photographs from a pedestrian's viewpoint. Paris
became his principal and perennial subject.
Eugène Atget gradually accumulated nearly 8,500 negatives that recorded the vanishing
remnants of the city's past as preserved in its architecture, neighborhood streets,
storefront displays, shop signs, popular pastimes, and common outdoor occupations. His
most characteristic works in this pictorial encyclopedia of Paris are moody, sometimes
melancholy studies that capture the true essence of the city-not postcard panoramas
dominated by tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower. The subtle beauty of Atget's work
lies in his uncanny ability to encapsulate and transform the mundane visual data of urban
daily life and its setting, to make the fleeting permanent and the prosaic, poetic, says
Gordon Baldwin, an associate curator in the department of photographs at the Getty Museum.
Staircase, Monmartre 1924,