Biography of James Abbe (1883-1973)

American photographer born in Alfred in 1883 and died in Maine (California) in 1973.


Although he/she was educated in the public school of Newpost News (Virginia), his literary training was le family. His father owned a bookstore in which James worked from the age of fifteen (1898) until he/she was eighteen (1901). There are completed his training and was born of his passion for literature and art.

He made his first photographs with only twelve years: sailors that were at the port needed pictures for their boarding cards type card and tourists passing his days of leisure in the city wanted to have a souvenir of the city where had spent their holidays. Abbot knew how to take advantage of both needs and, despite his young age, sold two types of different photographs: on the one hand, the portraits of sailors, and on the other, the postcards of souvenir for tourists

At the age of twenty (1913) began working as a freelance photographer for some newspapers of Virginia. In 1917 he/she moved to New York to open a self study, but it did not abandon its relationship with the world's press. It was at this time that published several graphic reports for newspapers such as Saturday Evening Post, New York Times or Ladie completo Home Journal, and some journals of popular scope. Their stay in the city of the skyscrapers completed six years later, in 1923. It was in these years, between 1922 and 1923, when his passion for instant photography made him focus his work on this type of shots.

Abbe, related with the world of cinema, and high society New York attending parties that were organized in the most distinguished city circles; There, he/she portrayed the more diverse characters in this social class and reflected in his photographs the environment in which they moved. These parties joined, sometimes the most important actors of the big movie houses, that Abbot portrayed, both in that environment and in his Studio; These latest universal fame as Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, actors or the great Charles Chaplininclude.

Professionally, Abbe is known as a photographer, but his relationship with the world of cinema led him to work as an actor and screenwriter in the film studios of Hollywood, New York and Italy. He/She collaborated with directors known worldwide such as Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith.

In the 1930s, her photographs focused on the characters and events of international politics. Portraits of political leaders like Roosevelt, dictators - was the first foreign correspondent who portrayed Stalin- like Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, or events of the time not spent long in his career, on the other hand, reflected deeply on the importance it would have in a future immediate and later; why it expressed them in his photographs. Thanks to his work, there is now a graphical documentation of the Stalin Russia, the triumph of the Hitler regime, the Mexican Revolution of 1932, the Spanish Civil War, etc.

From 1924 to 1932 he/she lived in Paris, where he/she opened a new Studio. It was at this time when he/she did his work for the magazine Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Vogue and Vu. In these years he/she made journeys throughout Europe, Mexico and Russia.

Between 1934 and 1936 he/she returned to United States to work as a photojournalist on the town of Larkspur, Colorado. His last work as American correspondent (1936-1937) was for the newspaper Alliance; These were based on the theme central of the Civil war in Espa├▒a.En 1938 began to Abbe a career that had nothing to do with his passion for photography. He/She moved first to San Francisco and later Oaklard (California), to working as a rancher, radio announcer and television critic; He/She retired in 1961.

His photographs were published in several books, among them is entitled I Photograph Russia, published in Russia in 1934. Two years after his death, in 1975, published a book of his photographs of the big stars of the 20 entitled Stars of the Twenties.Las years numerous exhibitions that took place after his death tried to show his work from all points of view, as photographs of the author, in group exhibitions, etc. They include those organized by the Museum Victoria & Albert in London, who showed his work that year; of the George Eastman House, in Rochester (New York), two years later; the Kunsthaus in Zurich and the International Center of Photography in New York, in 1979.

Other important centres organized various monographic samples of his work: the Washburn Gallery in New York in the years 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1983; the Canon Photo Gallery of Amsterdam in 1976; or two years later the Photographer┬┤s Gallery in London.