The PhotoBook

October 8, 2008

Atget by John Szarkowski

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Doug Stockdale @ 7:00 pm

cour 7 rue de Valencia“, 1922, Eugene Atget, courtesy of MOMA

I had published an earlier article in Singular Images about my continuing interest in Eugene Atget’s photographic urban landscapes. I subsequently purchased the hardcover book Atgetby the late John Szarkowski, published by MOMA as a first edition in 2000. All I can say is that this is a wonderful book for anyone’s collection.

Eugene Atget is usually characterized as the historical precedent for the photographic work of Walker Evans in the 1930’s, then Robert Frank in the 1950’s, and subsently carried on by the photographs of Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. Szarkowski elegantly articulates their direct way of seeing/photographing in his earlier book, Mirrors and Windows, which I commented on here.

I have a broad collection of photographic books that have had an image or two of Atget’s photographs, but I really wanted to have a dedicated resource to read and study to further understand his way of looking at something. There are a number of alternative hardcover book options for Atgets photographs, but to have access a paring of Atget’s photographs with the insights of Szarkowski and the beautifully printing and binding by MOMA in Italy was just too hard to resist.

The images are all well displayed in the book, with the Atget photograph on the right and on the opposite spread, the commentary about the photograph by Szarkowski.

So I have now traveled throught this book many times. At first I had hoped for a little more analysis of the structure of the photograph from Szarkowski, but then I realized that he was helping to frame the context of the photograph as much as describing the photographs attributes.

The book sequences Atget photographs chronologically, taking you on a historical journey through the development of Atget’s body of work. You come to understand that even Bernice Abbott, who became the champion of Atget’s photographs, did not get that close to the photographer himself.

So in conclusion, a book that I can really recommend.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale



  1. […] photobook that is almost 50% composed of photographs by Eugene Atgetis going to be difficult for me to objectively review. I have to admit that I have a relatively […]

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  2. […] consideration. It is easy for me to see the parallels to the earlier photographs of Eugene Atget, (here and here) who photographed a vanishing Paris at the turn of the twentieth century at a similar time […]

    Pingback by Christopher Thomas – New York Sleeps « The PhotoBook — December 14, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  3. […] But Cock reveals that he is urban enough to recognize the composition of canvas, rope, wood and a tire intended as counterbalance takes on the appearance of Robert Rauschenberg collage painting. Likewise with a small patio with a ladder balanced on the roof and the hose snaking around and the flatness of the remaining composition of constructed rectangles in contrast to the organic soft shapes of the background trees. What you might expect of a museum composition, with a sea of varying textures, range of grays, with repeating patterns of the floor, walls, roofs. A tree towering over a hedge creates a resemblance to Beth Dow’s and Eugene Atget’s gardens. […]

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  4. […] Boulogne section and actually close to Parc St Cloud, one of the many haunts and locations that Eugene Atget photographed in the early 1900′s. But I now here and my Atget photobooks are still back in […]

    Pingback by Parc St Cloud – Paris « Singular Images — July 24, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

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