Eugene Atget Appreciation

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by cliveh, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I came across this picture the other day, which I thought was mind blowing. His sense of composition, tonal rendition and presence is just amazing. I could look at this for hours.

    upload_2016-6-6_21-59-14.png
     
  2. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    yeah, but did he use the zone system?
     
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    cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I think not, but merely an intuitive grasp of materials and chemicals he had worked with over a lifetime (no light meter required) and contact prints from the negatives.
     
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    clive,
    you should know if he didn't use a light meter and just "winged it"
    he shouldn't be apprecaited at all. it is utterly fantastic that he even
    was able to get a halfway decent exposure at all, i mean early morning light
    is extremely unpredictable ... and if you look at any of his other work you can tell he
    had absolutely no grasp of his materials or his equipment ... he even vignetted THIS image.
    you would think if he was worth his weigh in salt at least he would have had a clue.
    ===
    in all seriousness, he is in my estimation probably one of the top 2 photographers that
    ever lived, the other, another frenchman spent his time in balloons
    and in catacombs. the world is richer because of atget's eyes and composition and the magic he was able
    to conjure with silver and developer.
    thanks clive -
    john
     
  5. Renato Tonelli

    Renato Tonelli Subscriber

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    He exposed for the shadows and developed for the highlights... :smile:
     
  6. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I disagree. (not regarding Atget in general, but this picture).
     
  7. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    No, but he did use stand development.
     
  8. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    The gear and products Atget used making those iconic prints later in his life were already considered anachronistic. If he were alive today, he wouldn't even own a smartphone or selfie stick. But he did relish the inherent flaws in his methodology. The difference is, he did this with eloquence,
    originality, and a profound sense of composition, and not like the thousands of wannabee copycats hence. He was basically a stock photographer roaming Paris for interesting subject matter, who increasing made prints for himself. He was admired by the Surrealists, then forgotten until Berenice Abbot rediscovered his work. All the mildew and wrinkles typically seen on his actual prints was not something he intended, however. The scrawled
    "documentation" and wide-angle lens vignetting was.
     
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    cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Well said.
     
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    cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    How about this one? It works for me, but not sure why. atget.jpg
     
  11. blockend

    blockend Member

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    One of my top five photographers ever since I learned of his work in the 1970s. He sold his photographs as artists source imagery and used printing out paper, really basic stuff, though I'm sure he saw it as art in its own right on some level. He often rose at dawn to capture the streets before people were about, which along with his technique and intentional vignetting, gave the photographs an unearthly dream-like quality. Fantastic stuff.
     
  12. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    It is a matter of being completely familiar with one's method. Ansel Adams understood this but so many on APUG chose to ignore the wisdom.

    The light meter is a fairly recent invention and can be replaced by experience.
     
  13. HiHoSilver

    HiHoSilver Subscriber

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    Cliveh - great thread & wonderful images. Thx for posting.
     
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    cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    How about this one -

    Untitled-11.jpg
     
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    cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Or this -

    atget3.jpg
     
  17. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Atget wasn't afraid of atmosphere. He used this compositionally, both to accentuate depth, but also with regard to mood and metaphor. In the latter aspect he was genius. Paris basically suffered from smog. It was called "gray light". So the contrast ratios on the film itself were probably quite predictable to him and well within the range of his contact papers. By comparison (a rather stupid comparison, but inevitable on a thread like this), AA really needed the Zone System to handle the crisp brilliancy of high altitude scenes, in which he often took the opposite tack as Atget and cut through atmosphere with strong colored filters. I do both, depending. Sometimes the work is done for me, like forest fire haze. In general, it can be quite a useful lesson to study the older masters, before panchromatic film even existed, and how they managed atmosphere using blue-sensitive films. It's easy enough just to stick a blue filter over your lens today. But Atget brought an awful lot of haunting mystique into this too, and not just air.
     
  18. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    (... took a break to lock things up)... Anyway, Atget often used sculptures and ruins anthropomorphically, even vases, as stand in witnesses to the
    scene, within it. It's like the Shining, they're not just objects, but somehow still alive, possessed, amidst either ruin or something contemplative.
    That's why the Surrealists admired him. And he spatially modulates this relationship using atmosphere and receding focal planes, and the degree of intensity of black (though true black never exists in his prints). There is actually a lot going on. But of course, he made many many images where
    not everything came together. The iconic ones have been sorted out among thousands of lesser images. Even Babe Ruth struck out more often than
    not; but that's not why we remember him.
     
  19. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    While I've seen several references to Atget's use of Hubl paste for development, I've never seen a reference to what film (or plates) he used. Has anyone seen such a reference? Did he use blue sensitive film or was it ortho? He began photographing Paris in 1890, but many of the images in this thread were probably shot in the 20s.
    Juan
     
  20. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    his big problem was that he didn't keep his film in the freezer
     
  21. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    not sure juan
    i know he photographed paris, except during ww1, from the late 1890s until the 1920s
    ive been told he used glass plates but not sure if later on he used them, or just early on.
    ==
    he was a master at creating a sense of place. photographing things so they could be remembered
    with the magesty they deserved to be remembered. his portraits of the homeless and street vendors
    were beautiful too. its hard to believe his negatives were dug out of the dumpster in the 30s ...
    ===
    couldn't agree more gerald, know your stuff back and forth so it is 2nd nature, and an extension of you..
     
  22. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    This one is quite good, besides the annoying vignetting. The others, not so much.
     
  23. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Member

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    I'll admit again that appreciation of Atget and his "magic" is mostly lost on me, even after buying a good book of his work and seeing some explanation about why it's supposedly so good. He's slowly growing on me though, and I'll have to say some of these shots posted by cliveh are quite nice...
     
  24. momus

    momus Member

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    I agree, he was a remarkable photographer, and one who had to work w/ very difficult cameras and "film". He was very good at composition, which was probably a spinoff of his interest in painting. The photos here really don't do his work justice. There is a small book of his photographs at our library that I saw w/ excellent images, and his sense of timing and composition are wonderful. He had no exhibitions within his lifetime, made few sales on his own, and was essentially unknown when he died.

    His body of work is considered by some to be less that it really is (some people even going so far as to call him a failed painter that worked in photography). Occasionally his work does exhibit problems in execution, w/ lens flare and reflections. Whether he knew about this and didn't care, or was not sure how to technically fix things is anyone's guess. I suppose, from looking at his paintings, which were workman like and showed that he understood the craft, that he was having technical problems and probably would not have shown the works that we see today if he were alive to edit them.

    His paintings are not bad, and show a command of the working medium, but my guess is that he did not devote enough time to that in order to mature to his own style. Some works are clearly derivative of Cezanne, Bonnard and Degas. That's some tough company to be in with, and unless you're at the top of your game it is just going to look problematic if you follow their styles and outlooks too much. Much of what we see today are prints that were made from his glass plates after he died, much like Vivian Maier's negatives, although the work itself and the two personalities could not have been more different. He's one of my favorite photographers.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=eug...=uN9zV8LbGseSmQGnrJewCA#imgrc=K6ZBOM53giMnyM:
     
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    cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Interesting comments and observations. How about this one? Parc Delessert.jpg
     
  26. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Clive - I like this one very atmospheric but sharp steps as well.
     
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