Biography of Jean Eugène Auguste Atget (1856-1927)

French photographer born in Libourne (Bordeaux) in 1857 and died in Paris in 1927.

Orphaned of father and mother, from very small lived with an aunt in Libourne. Atget worked in many trades: was the waiter on a ship until 1879, year where he began his studies at the Conservatory of dramatic arts of Paris; starting from there worked as an actor in a very modest theatre company - where he met Valentine Delafosse, his girlfriend-, until in 1892, he began his career travelling in Paris photographer and photographic documentarian for painters he knew (Braque, Derain, Utrillo and others). Also sold his photos to official institutions such as the national library, the library of the city of Paris, the Museum of decorative arts, etc.

Between 1895 and 1900 he devoted himself to the street portraits. He collected photographs of the city, their windows, street vendors, prostitutes, shops, streets and monuments. He did view topographical and architectural details. With diverse documentation formed a particular Chronicle of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.

Atget chose disappearing family types, the vestiges of an artisan past. His characters are standing, posing, in the center of the image, front or profile, don't look at the target. It used a wide-angle lens to belittle the figures and create a receding perspective that is reminiscent of the great Italian painters of the Renacimiento.En this time produced documents on nature, leaving objects in its context; one of the most representative of this type of photography series is the so-called Umbellas. His images had a double reading, the landscape and the decorative.

The surrealist movement La Révolution Surréaliste published part of his work. Surrealism recognized him in his series on shop windows of Paris, a priority in the surreal of the everyday vision. He preferred that be not mentioned his name in these publications because I wanted to continue to be a documentary photographer.

The history of the 20th century by Walter Benjamin, Petit histoire de photographie, published in 1931, begins by Atget, he said that "introduced the release of the object with respect to the aura".

Berenice Abbot was interested, just like Man Ray, by the singular character who was Atget. At his death he bought his negatives; the collection of photographs of Abbot is located in the Museum of Modern Art of New York.

Monographs published about him and his work include who, in 1930, wrote Pierre Mac Orlan, Atget photographe de Paris; the 1964 edition published B. Abbott, known as The World of Atget; in 1975, J. Leroy, Atget Magicien du vieux Paris in sou epoque; and who in 1997 wrote José Gómez island "Photo narcissus": Eugène Atget and the origins of the photographic language in the new vision of the avant-garde (1890-1927).


NESBIT, Molly: Atget completo seven albums. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1992.

ATGET, Eugene: Eugene Atget. Barcelona: Orbis. 1992.