Abbott, Berenice, 1898-1991.

Alternative names
Birth 1898-07-17
Death 1991-12-09

Biographical notes:

b.1898; d, 1991.

From the description of Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122462170

B. in Springfield, Ohio on July 17, 1898; d. 1991 in Monson, Maine, age 93.

From the description of Berenice Abbott : Artist File. (International Center of Photography). WorldCat record id: 437266448

Berenice Abbott was born July 17, 1898 in Springfield, Ohio. She attended Ohio State University, but left early in 1918, moving to New York City's Greenwich Village. She was immersed in the world of the city's literati very early on, sharing an apartment with Djuna Barnes, Kenneth Burke, and Malcolm Cowley. She traveled to Europe in 1921, studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. In 1923, Abbott was hired by Man Ray to work as his studio assistant in Montparnasse. Impressed by her work, Man Ray allowed Abbott to use the studio to take her own photographs. This was the beginning of her long and illustrious photography career, and in 1926 the gallery Au Sacre du Printemps held her first solo exhibition. She started her own studio on the Rue du Bac, and then traveled to Berlin to study photography. Returning to Paris in 1927, she opened a second studio on the Rue Servandoni. Abbott's early focus was portraiture, and her subjects were well known in arts and literary circles in the city and the world, such as Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Sylvia Beach. In 1925, Abbott saw the prints of photographer Eugene Atget in Man Ray's studio and became determined to seek him out. She eventually found Atget, and befriended him, even taking his photograph in 1927. But before she could show him the results, he died. Abbott's concern for the fate of his photographs led her to Atget's executor, Andre Calmettes, who had more than 1,000 negative and 5,000 prints in his possession. Abbott managed to buy the photographs from Calmettes, who saw her passion for the work, and she began her quest to promote Atget's work, which was largely unknown. In 1929 she traveled to New York City to find an American publisher for Atget's photographs and discovered the great photographic potential in the urban landscape. Abbott's photographs of the city were sharp, detailed, and atmospheric, calling to mind the work of her mentor, Atget. She documented several buildings and neighborhoods in the city that are now destroyed. She began teaching at the New School of Social Research in 1933 to support herself, and in 1935 was hired by the Federal Art Project as supervisor for Changing New York. In 1939, when she resigned from the Project, 305 photographs of the city were deposited at the Museum of the City of New York, and a book, titled Changing New York, was also published. During this time Abbott moved in with Elizabeth McCausland, a writer and great supporter of Abbott's work. The two collaborated on a project in the 1960s in which they traveled along U.S. Route 1, taking photographs of the small towns along the way. Shortly after McCausland's death in 1965, Abbott moved to Maine, publishing A portrait of Maine in 1968. Abbott's work is widely praised for its simplicity in that the photographs are not manipulated, both in subject matter and during the developing process. Abbott captured the world as it was, but did not shy away from innovation. In fact, she invented many ingenious photographic appliances, such as the distortion easel and telescopic lighting pole. She exhibited and published widely and was the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Westbrook College Deborah Morton Award in 1977, an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Bowdoin College in 1982, Women's Caucus for Art Award in 1982, a BA from Portland School of Art in 1983, and the International ERICE Prize for Photography in 1987. She died at her home in Maine on December 9, 1991.

From the description of Berenice Abbott collection, 1950-1991. (University of New England). WorldCat record id: 755720440

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) was an American photographer best known for her black and white photography of New York City's architecture.

From the description of Berenice Abbott papers, 1927-1992 (bulk 1960-1992). (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 294902042

Photographer; d. 1991.

From the description of Oral history interview, 1972. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70957452


From the description of Photographs, [ca. 1935-1938] (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155486459

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) was an American photographer best known for her black and white photography of New York City's architecture. Abbott was born July 17th, 1898 in Springfield, Ohio. She attended Ohio State University for one year with the goal of becoming a journalist, but abandoned that course to move to New York City in 1918. While there, she became interested in sculpture. In 1921 she sailed for France and spent several years living abroad. During this time Abbott was hired by Man Ray to work as his darkroom assistant. During her years in Paris she began to practice her own photography and became acquainted with Eugene Atget. After his death she purchased all of his work and returned to New York.

In 1935 Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Project which allowed her to complete her "Changing New York" project. At the end of this arrangement in 1939, over 300 detailed photographs of the city were donated by Abbott to the Museum of the City of New York. 1935 was also the year that Abbott moved in with Elisabeth McCausland, noted art critic. Abbott would remain partners with McCausland until the latter's death in 1965.

Abbott's interests within the world of photography were varied. She began by focusing on urban architecture. In the 1940 she developed an interest in scientific photography, working for a time as photo editor of Science Illustrated . Not only was Abbott a talented photographer, but she invented many techniques and designed new equipment for other photographers. In 1947 she opened her House of Photography which sold her inventions, including the distortion easel and the autopole.

In 1954 Abbott traveled US 1 from Maine to Florida on a photographic expedition, accompanied by McCausland. This expedition resulted in more than 2000 negatives, ranging from antebellum architecture to the new roadside architecture. Shortly after she completed the trip, Abbott underwent a lung operation and was told she needed to leave New York City to avoid air pollution. She relocated to Blanchard, Maine where she purchased a house on the Piscataquis River.

Abbot's last publication was A Portrait of Maine in 1968, though she continued to take photographs and enjoyed an active social life until her death in 1991.

From the guide to the Berenice Abbott papers, 1927-1992, 1960-1992, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)


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  • Women photographers
  • Women photographers--United States
  • Photography, Artistic
  • Streets
  • Architecture
  • Architectural photography
  • Women photographers--Interviews
  • Photography
  • Documentary photography
  • Buildings
  • Photography--Scientific applications


  • Photographers
  • Women photographers
  • Women photographers--Maine--Abbot Village


  • Beacon Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Boston (Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Louisburg Square (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Washington Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • T Wharf (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Cambridge Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Massachusetts Avenue (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Myrtle Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Adams Square (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Hancock Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • India Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Elm Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Joy Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Maine--Abbot Village (as recorded)
  • Pinckney Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Noanet Street (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Post Office Square (Boston, Mass.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)