Berenice Abbott’s Changing City

Berenice Abbott, Herald Square, 34th and Broadway, July 16 1936

Berenice Abbott’s book Changing New York came out in 1939 and it was sent out to schools and libraries across the country. The New York Public Library acquired the prints which can be seen on their flickr site here. This is the best collection of Abbott’s work I’ve seen, many of them rough proofs or alternative views, and it gives a better idea of her working method than the various edited books.

Abbott is in the pantheon of photographers, her work looks better and better with time. It demonstrates the camera’s immense capacity for recording information, freezing the great city as it became a metropolis. The photographs are objective, matter-of-fact, but they convey the vitality of that city, a new confidence in American life. And there is something about the wide-angle view and the straight-ahead gaze that suggests her own individual strength of character. Looking at these pictures, you can sense she was a formidable personality.

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