Berenice Abbott - Nightview, New York
Nightview, New York
Gelatin silver print, printed later. 90.1 x 71.4 cm. Flush-mounted to original card, signed in pencil below the image on the mount. Photographer's stamp and annotated in an unknown hand in pencil on the reverse of the mount.
When Berenice Abbott returned to New York in 1929 after an eight-year stay in Paris, she was so overwhelmed by the profound urban changes that had taken place in the metropolis in the meantime that she began to document the change and the rapidly progressing urban developments with a large-format camera she had purchased especially for this purpose. She devoted herself to her work with the care and attention to detail she had come to know from her Parisian role model Eugène Atget. He too had been active - albeit in Paris and thirty years earlier - as a chronicler of urban change; it is conceivable that this was one of the reasons for Abbott to deal with the subject of the transformation of a metropolis.
For the first few years Abbott financed her work through commercial commissions that she did on the side. In 1935, she received funding for her project 'Changing New York' from the Federal Art Project (FAP) and was able to devote herself entirely to her work from then on. In 1937, her works were shown in the 'Changing New York' exhibition. When she retired from the project in 1939, she had completed 305 photographs that were included to the collection of the 'Museum of the City of New York'.
The view of wintery New York from one of the top floors of the Empire State Building, taken in 1932 on an early December evening, has lost none of its breathtaking effect on the viewer. The vertiginous bird's-eye view, the massive cubature of the skyscrapers, covered by countless small points of light on the still brightly lit office floors, the mysterious illumination of individual, brightly shining aureoles exert a magical effect. Above all as a large-format print, as it is presented here, the photograph impresses with its enormous lure and its almost futuristic modernity.
Estate of Berenice Abbott
Aperture Foundation (ed.), Masters of Photography, Vol. 9: Berenice Abbott, New York 1988, ill. p. 57; Berenice Abbott, Vol. II: New York, Göttingen 2008., ill. p. 54 and ill. on front cover; Berenice Abbott, exhib.cat. Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, London 2010, plate 20