All photography is documentary by nature. Good photographs are documentary -- they can't escape it.
-Berenice Abbott

1898-1991. Berenice Abbott was an influential photographer best known for her portraits and documentary photographs of American life and society.

Originally she experimented with sculpture, but in 1923 she went to Paris where she began her photographic career. She started as the darkroom assistant and apprentice to Man Ray, and later established her own portrait studio.

Abbott favored "straight" photography, without any special effects. She saw photography's strength in clearly focused, highly detailed images.

Abbott was inspired by Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget, who spend most of his life documenting the life and architecture of Paris. At his death Abbott worked to preserve Atget's work, as well as starting a similar project to document New York in the 1930's. With funding by the Federal Art Project Abbott was able to document New York and publish Changing New York (1939).

In the 40s and 50s Abbott focused on scientific photography. In 1958 she was commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to illustrate a series of physics textbooks. She took pictures that illustrate basic mathematical principles, such as soap bubbles, wave patterns, bouncing balls, twirling wrenches, and light beams, as well as abstract notions such as averages. She also developed new photographic techniques and built and patented several new cameras.

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