Eugène Atget was a pioneer in French documentary photography, known for his photographs of Paris buildings and streets. Atget was born in Libourne on February 12, 1857. He initially moved to Paris to become an actor but gave up due to a vocal cord infection. Atget started taking pictures in the late 1880s. He began photographing Paris in 1898, using a bulky view camera and large glass plates to capture finer detail than others at the time.
With photography Atget began to find success translating his passion for the arts into a career and moved back to Paris in 1890. His photographs, many taken at dawn, are famous for his diffused lighting and expansive view that convey a sense of space and atmosphere. Atget mainly focused on the urban landscapes which were razed and transformed due to modernization. While not creating work considered to be fine art, he supplied visual references to other artists, designers, and historical groups. His photographs of Paris were acquired by, and served as inspiration for, artists including Matisse, Picasso, Degas, and eventually were appropriated by many artists of the Surrealist movement including Man Ray.
Berenice Abbott visited Atget in 1925, bought a couple of his photographs, and tried to get other artists interested in his work. She continued to promote Atget through various articles, exhibitions, and books, and in 1968 she sold her Atget collection to the Museum of Modern Art. After Atget's death in 1927, Abbott published most of his photographs, which eventually garnered worldwide recognition.