Remembered as one of the most independent, determined and respected photographers of the 20th century, Berenice Abbott chronicled the evolution of New York City for decades beginning with the Great Depression. Almost 80 original prints will be available with 61 prints being offered without reserve to collectors during Heritage Auctions' Photographs Signature Auction May 18-19 in New York City. Images of iconic New York City landmarks such as
the New York Stock Exchange (est. $3,000-5,000),
the construction of Rockefeller Center (est. $1,500-2,500)
and Broadway to the Battery ($1,000-2,000) (below)highlight this collection of original prints.
"Berenice Abbott spent years chronicling the evolution of New York City. She captured the architecture, the people and the spirit of one of the busiest, most dynamic and influential cities in the world. Many of these prints capture iconic images of the New York City from Abbott's creative perspective but still with a dramatic effect that stands the test of time," said Nigel Russell, Heritage Auctions Director of Photography.
Heritage Auctions will be hosting a reception from 6-8 p.m. May 11 at the New York Office located at 445 Park Avenue at 57th street. Julia Van Haaften - who has written a biography Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography which is to be published by W.W. Norton in April 2018 will speak about Abbott's impact and significance.
The class of 2000 International Photography Hall of Fame inductee began her photography career in Paris as a darkroom assistant working with visual artist Man Ray in the 1920s. She soon realized she had an eye for taking photos, as well as developing them, and quickly built a sizable client base of portrait subjects. Abbott had her first solo exhibition in 1926 at the Jan Slivinsky Gallery entitled Portraits Photographiques. The show received rave reviews and Abbott returned to New York in February 1929.
Upon returning to New York City, Abbott quickly recognized what her next project should entail. Influenced by Eugene Atget, the pioneering documentary photographer, Abbott realized that New York City had grown tremendously while she was away and she needed to capture "old New York" from every aspect. The city became her subject and her work appeared in Vanity Fair, The Saturday Review of Literature, the Saturday Evening Post, Theater Guild Magazine and Fortune.
According to her online biography, Abbott favored a straightforward, yet dynamic, style that featured strong contrasts and dramatic angles. "Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium," Abbott said. "It has to walk alone. It has to be itself."
Many of the photographs offered are from her almost 10 years of documenting New York City, which eventually were published in a book entitled Changing New York.
Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991), Broadway to the Battery, May 4, 1938. Gelatin silver, 9-1/2 x 7-1/4 inches. Estimate: $1,000 - $2,000.
• Newsstand, Southwest Corner of 32nd Street and Third Avenue, November 19, 1935 (est. $2,000-3,000)
• Under the "El" at the Battery, New York, 1936 (est. $1,000-2,000)