Berenice Abbott

American photographer (1898-1991)

Berenice Abbott (July 17, 1898December 9, 1991), born Bernice Abbott, was an American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s.

Berenice Abbott (1930s)


  • Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.
    • "It Has to Walk Alone," Infinity magazine, 1951.
  • Suppose we took a thousand negatives and made a gigantic montage: a myriad-faceted picture containing the elegances, the squalor, the curiosities, the monuments, the sad faces, the triumphant faces, the power, the irony, the strength, the decay, the past, the present, the future of a city – that would be my favorite picture.
    • Popular Photography, February 1940.
  • I wanted to photograph this subject because the signs’ shrieking blatancy literally cried out for a visual record. To my mind the faded, yellowing paper and the red paint were not particularly paint,able. In black and white the signs shouted, clamored for attention, in visual anarchy. At the same time, the shrewd business sense which plastered them solid over the entire window area produced, as it were by chance, an esthetic by-product: the whole has homogeneity and variety of texture, simultaneously, which give the picture interest.
    • New Guide to Better Photography, 1953.
  • The Baroness was like Jesus Christ and Shakespeare all rolled into one and perhaps she was the most influential person to me in the early part of my life.
  • I believe there is no more creative medium than photography to recreate the living world of our time. Photography gladly accepts the challenge because it is at home in its element: namely, realism—real life—the now.
    • "Photography at the Crossroads," 1951.
  • People say they have to express their emotions. I’m sick of that. Photography doesn’t teach you how to express your emotions; it teaches you how to see.
    • Art News, January 1981.

Quotes about Berenice Abbott

  • The Saturday arguments about photography as a machine art are answered by the best photographers. "If the camera were a machine!" Berenice Abbott said, "with the precision and the flexibility, the accommodation and power of machines as we know them today!" And "Our lighting has not been begun," she said. "We need a light as good as sunlight-better than sunlight."
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