Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vanishing Paris - the art of Eugene Atget

Have you heard of the French photographer Eugene Atget?
I must admit that I had never heard of him until I went to an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales last week.
I love old photographs and Paris is eminently photogenic - so it was a must see for me!
And was I blown away!


Atget photographed the streets of Paris between 1898 and 1927 when Paris was being radically remodelled and modernised.
Many of his subjects no longer exist having been demolished to make way for the wide boulevards and parks, metro and stations of the new modern Paris.



Atget is most famous for his street scenes which depict a way of life to shortly disappear - the small shops and businesses, the street vendors, the courtyards and alleyways.




Because of the type of camera he used which needed long exposure times some of his photos show delightful blurry effects from people who are moving with an almost ghostlike appearance.


Or he would work in scenes without people to limit the moving - these make Paris seem like a ghost town.




Here we can see the photographer underneath the cloth that covers his camera reflected in the grand mirror.



Many of the photographs remind me of places that exist in countries I have travelled to recently - strangely reminescent of parts of India, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Even the pictures of the street traders have their counterparts.


It seems that Atget was actually a very influential photographer and is still inspiring people today - there are flickr groups dedicated to Atget hommage - here and here.

Photographs sourced from atgetphotography.com.

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