“Photography helps people to see”-Berenice Abbott

By Johna Till Johnson

Photographs by Berenice Abbott


Pike and Henry Street by Berenice Abbott, 1936

It was one of those Facebook memes that occasionally goes around. “Let’s fill Facebook with art! Like if you want to participate, and I’ll give you an artist to post on your Facebook page.”

The poster, David, is a longtime friend with wide-ranging artistic interests and great taste, so I signed up. Besides, we can all use a little art in the dark days of February, right?

David assigned me Berenice Abbott. I’d never heard of her—though even a photography newbie like me immediately recognized some of her iconic NYC photographs. I spent a delighted evening reviewing her life and work and reading her brief Wikipedia biography. If you haven’t heard of her, I encourage you to do so, too–she was one of the great 20th-century artists of the “realist” school. Her quote about photography helping people to see resonates very strongly with me right now, as I work to develop my eye.

A delightful discovery: She developed several cutting-edge techniques for scientific photography, and in fact illustrated a 1958 high school physics textbook (an article about which appeared in Forbes Magazine recently).



Penn Station Interior, Manhattan by Berenice Abbott 1936


Blossom Restaurant by Berenice Abbott, 1935


12 responses to ““Photography helps people to see”-Berenice Abbott

  1. These images are wonderful and mysterious-seeming. Thanks, Johna!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. She was a great observer of life, and an accomplished photographer technically, which gave her images life and depth

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. The quote about “helping people to see” is the one I chose for my website’s home page. It is so true. It says everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating, Johna. What a woman and what a photographer. You’re really feeding into my planning for my trip! Just the selection on wikipedia is appealing. I love the restaurant shot!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Johna Till Johnson

    Debbie, here’s another one for you: Try to make time to see the Alice Austen House on Staten Island. Alice Austen is another famous (and sorely overlooked) photographer, and you can tour her house, which includes a gallery.

    You can take the Staten Island ferry over, and I believe it’s just a short walk or hop on public transportation from there (I’ve always gone by kayak).

    Do check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love old images.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. magical


  8. Pingback: The Photography of Berenice Abbott – Christine E. Hutchins

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