In this day and age we have pretty much taken photography for granted as an integral part of everyday life. There is the immediacy of Polaroids and the limitlessness of disposable cameras, which makes a picture taken today a distant cousin to the practice of early photography. Occasionally we need reminding of the roots of photographic image making: the glass plates, hand-coated emulsion and massive amounts of other accoutrements that were needed to make one image. In Atget, a selection from the lifetime work of legendary French photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927), we enter the world of early 20th-century photography, which was beginning to bid farewell to the hand-crafted picture.
Atget was poised on the cusp between the techniques and materials of early photography and the moment things began to change and modern photography was born. From a laborious and time-consuming process came a much faster method that changed the nature of photography forever. Seemingly overnight the photograph went from something precious to something on its way to being accessible to all. Atget was among the first generation to photographically capture the world of ordinary citizens. While the subject matter was new, Atget was nevertheless steeped in the tradition of the old-world photograph. A crooked doorknocker is captured with loving attention to detail, an air of preciousness still present. Spindly trees, store windows, public gardens... each picture is delicate and romantic. It makes you wonder if absolutely everything was more beautiful in France. Included are insightful commentaries for each of the 100 tritone photographs and five duotones, plus a really great introduction by John Szarkowski, former Director of the Department of Photography at the MOMA. --J.P. Cohen