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Berenice Abbott: Changing New York Hardcover – 1997

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

To celebrate the centennial of Abbott's birth, the author has curated this show comprising the Museum of the City of New York's collection of 200 of the 307 prints that Abbott made between 1935 and 1939 in New York City with the support of the Works Progress Administration. Organized in eight geographical sections (e.g., Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, and Outer Boroughs), Abbott's views of New York contribute greatly to the documentation of the social, commercial, and architectural history of the city. Eugene Atget's approach to documenting cities with sparsely populated views of streets and shop fronts clearly shaped Abbott's own work in documenting New York City. Yochelson lays out such facts and analyses in an exceptionally well-written and carefully researched text that provides the most complete story to date of Abbott's life, artistic influences, and photographic contributions. The endnotes on each photograph are detailed and will be useful to photographers and city historians alike. Highly recommended for large academic and public libraries and for collections that specialize in the history of photography or New York City.?Kathleen Collins, Bank of America Archives, San Francisco
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

These canonical photographs have never before been so well presented.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 399 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press / The Museum of the City of New York; Reissue edition (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565843770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565843776
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.2 x 12.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a great choice for those who love great photography, Berenice Abbott fans, those who are interested in the history of New York in the 1930s, and those who would like to enjoy a little nostalgia about their formative years in that magnificent city.
Berenice Abbott returned from 8 years in Europe at age 30 in January 1929, planning on a short stay. Instead, she was transfixed by the changes in the New York City scene, and became obsessed by the opportunity to capture it photographically. For the next 10 years this was her focus.
During the depths of the Depression, she was able to obtain a grant from the WPA to work with the Museum of the City of New York to create an exhaustive photographic essay of the city. This book contains the finest flowers of that remarkable assignment in 305 black and white photographs, a biographical essay about Abbott, maps of where the photographs were taken, and extensive notes on the locations and the photographic perspectives used.
The biographical essay was made more interesting by describing Abbott's strenuous financial and promotional efforts to support Atget's collection, while staving off poverty herself. The many fights over how to do the New York City project also make good reading as background for the images. Independent by nature, that quality of Abbott's probably improved the result in this case.
The presentation of the images is organized around the different geographical sections of Manhattan and the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn. As a result, you get a sense of neighborhoods as well as of individual images and locations.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Elsa Dorfman on December 12, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book is wonderful. The author has produced a perfect book. It is very faithful to Abbott's vision. Abbott has an unerring eye. Notice all the signage. It is everywhere. On sides of buildings. In windows. Above buildings on the roof. By comparison, we live in a visually impoverished age.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fascinating pictorial history of New York during the '30s as shown through the beautiful duotone plates that Bernice Abbott took between 1935-1939. These pictures were taken as part of the Work's Progress Administration sponsorship of the arts. The clarity of the pictures combined with the excellent reproduction in the book makes this a must have for anyone who wants to see exactly what New York was like right after the Depression and before the war. It is like stepping back in time and seeing life as it was. The high contrast of the plates brings out tremendous details and these pictures beg for closer examination to really pick up the feel of the era - the signs in the windows for 10 cent haircuts or the hardware store with all of the goods splayed out on the street with handmade signs showing the prices. All of this adds to the visual wonder of this book. This book is far more than a coffee table edition. It is a reference unlike any other about New York.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bruce horner on November 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Granted this is an expensive book (or the hardback edition is), but to anyone interested in what New York City looked like in the latter half of the 30's, or fans of Abbott's work, or of WPA photography, it's well worth it. You'll notice details here that you missed in the Dover reprint "New York in the Thirties" and there are many more photos here as well, quite a few seeing publication for the first time. There's loads of ancillary information too, including maps that indicate exactly where in New York each photo was taken. This book is a treasurehouse.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Noirman on March 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
Although this book contains only a small portion of Berenice Abbott's art photography, a number of her finest photos are included.

Abbot's stunning urban landscapes in various sections of Manhattan from the 1930's through the 1950's are among my favourites. It's amazing watching the transformation of transportation, architecture, coupled with evolving people's clothing plus ladies hair styles depicted in her ultra clear black and white photographs.

The book is written in English, French and German which is great for international readers. The appropriate use of high gloss paper makes the her photos stand out even more. The binding of this edition is also well done, which is regrettably rare these days.

I highly recommended this book on one of the all time female lens masters of 'art' photography.

Aperture Masters of Photography: Berenice Abbott
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By SistaBNYC on May 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book so much, that I gave it to a dear old friend as a gift. She is almost 80 years old and I knew it would be a nice trip down memory lane for her. I'm considerably younger, but there are many places in New York that I remember that are no longer there. This book does a great job with presenting photos then and now along with the history of the site and what's happened to it over the years. We should all be grateful to Ms. Abbott for capturing the best of the city at a time when it was so young. Never innocent, but that's what makes this town so special.

Another great read, Forgotten New York by Kevin Walsh, is a kind of recent version of this type of book in that there are tons of great photos of areas and structures in all five boroughs of New York that are still here but on the way to being demolished or lost forever (old abandoned buildings, "ghost advertising signs" on walls, overgrown private cemeteries, etc.). It makes you want to visit every place he writes about so you can experience a bit of history for yourself before it's gone forever.

Photo histories of New York are always great nostalgic reads and I think Changing New York makes a wonderful addition to anyone's collection.
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