Berenice Abbott

27th Oct 2015 - 21st Nov 2015



During a career spanning the best part of the twentieth century, Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) produced one of the most significant and varied bodies of photography ever made. Although widely regarded as one of the most important American documentary photographers, the exhibition will be the first career encompassing retrospective to be mounted in the UK. The exhibition will include a selection of Abbott’s early portraits, revealing the influence of Man Ray and the Surrealists. The famous sitters include James Joyce, René Crevel and Eugène Atget.

After several impoverished years and in need of work in New York, the Federal Arts Project, an arm of the New Deal Works Progress Administration tasked with employing millions of unemployed people, employed Abbott to photograph the city in the 1930s. Becoming known as Changing New York, Abbott’s project is a colossal testament to the dizzying scale and extreme contrasts of the most advanced metropolis in the world. Abbott conceptualised the project as a photographic ‘portrait’ of the city and worked with the same fastidious documentary precision as her contemporaries, Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, photographers also employed under the auspices of the New Deal administration.

A selection of science photographs will represent the body of work on which Abbott focused during her later career. Abbott finally received the opportunity to undertake a long-pursued project to photograph scientific experiments when she was employed by a United Stated government programme aiming to improve science education in an effort to keep pace with the Russian space programme which had just launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik.

The exhibition will also show photographs from Abbott’s lesser-known US Route 1 series. Taken during a road trip through the small towns and holdings down the Eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida, the photographs are Abbott’s account of the American Scene.


Berenice Abbott