Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography

Berenice Abbott, 1989

Our friend and colleague Julia Van Haaften, founding curator of the New York Public Library’s photography collection, has released her in-depth biography Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography.

This Karsh photograph above was made at Abbott’s home in Maine in 1989, two years before she died. Friends since their first meeting at the International Center of Photography in 1981, where they were introduced by Cornell Capa, Mr. Karsh spoke at her funeral and you can listen to the wonderful audio here.

From the review by Dwight Garner in the April 9, 2018, issue of the New York Times: “Abbott was a chain-smoker, a big drinker at times, and she liked to dance. She and Man Ray were kicked off one dance floor for “obscenity,” Van Haaften writes, which is one definition of pretty good dancing. When Man Ray needed a divorce, and the only ground New York State would accept was adultery, Abbott agreed to be named as the other woman.”

“When a male supervisor told Abbott that “nice girls” don’t go to the Bowery, she replied: “Buddy, I’m not a nice girl. I’m a photographer … I go anywhere.””

“With her bobbed hair, no-nonsense mien and tendency to wear trousers – this at a time when doing so got a woman hassled on the street – Abbott was an eyeful. Throughout her life, photographers and painters competed to capture her image; Isamu Noguchi made a sculpture of her in 1929.”

Read the book review in the Times.

Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography is out now from WW Norton.