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