Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991) – A Photographer

Photo: Berenice Abbott
Penn Station, Interior, Manhattan (1936) by Berenice Abbott. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991)

Berenice Abbott was a lesbian before this was acceptable. She was a closeted lesbian all her life. In a letter to Kaucyila Brooke, June 3 1985 she writes, ‘I am a photographer, not a lesbian’. She never acknowledged her personal relationship with Jane Heath or any other women.

Berenice (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991), born in Ohio moved to Paris in 1921 where she apprenticed to the famous artist-photographer Man Ray. In 1926 opened her own studio, where she made portraits of the intelligentsia: Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, André Gide, Janet Flanner and Djuna Barnes among them. In 1929 when she returned to New York and began a five-year endeavor called “Changing New York,” subsidised by the Federal Art Project, created by F.D.R.’s New Deal, concentrating on buildings rather than on people.

Photo: Berenice Abbott
Photograph of Radio Row, looking east along Cortlandt Street towards Greenwhich Street, by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) from her “Changing New York” Works Progress Administration/ Federal Art Project.

Photo: Berenice Abbott
Hot Dog Stand, West St. and North Moore, Manhattan (1936). Photo by Berenice Abbott.

Photo: Berenice Abbott
Huts and unemployed, West Houston and Mercer St., Manhattan (1935) by Berenice Abbott.


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