Atget’s charming postcard portraits of Paris tradespeople were his only publications during his lifetime
Few places on Earth have been as lovingly, almost fanatically, documented as Paris. Despite extraordinary growth and change, the Paris of the world’s imagination is still, to a remarkable degree, the Paris of the turn of the 20th century—the Paris captured by Eugène Atget.
The postcards in this book, which were more or less Atget’s only publications during his lifetime, were created near the beginning of his career, long before he was “discovered” in the 1920s and raised to the status of the poetic chronicler of the fragility of time and place. This postcard series is atypical of his later work and its exact origins remain something of a mystery. Its images, which depict Paris’ “little trades,” were meant to capture the ephemeral color of life. In them, Atget presents the market stands, the odd jobs, the cobbled-together shops and the informal entertainment that gave Paris its piquancy and eternally renewing liveliness. This book presents the cards in sequence, along with an introduction that explains Atget’s participation in his own period’s photographic trends and his influence on later photography. With exquisitely reproduced images and elegantly translated captions, Atget: Postcards of a Lost Paris provides a peek at a disappearing way of life, and at Atget before he was Atget.
Eugène Atget (1857–1927) was a French photographer whose photographs of the narrow streets, parks, shop windows and characters of Paris and its peripheral areas blend documentary straightforwardness with an undeniable poetic vision. Near the end of his lifetime, Atget came to the attention of Man Ray and Berenice Abbott and their avant-garde circle, becoming a source of inspiration for the Surrealists in Paris. Text by Benjamin Weiss.
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