Few places on Earth have been as lovingly, almost fanatically, documented as Paris. Despite extraordinary growth and change, the Paris of the world’s imagination is still, to a remarkable degree, the Paris of the turn of the twentieth century and the Paris captured by the famed photographer Eugène Atget. The postcards in this book, which were more or less Atget’s only publications during his lifetime, were created near the beginning of his career, long before he was “discovered” in the 1920s and raised to the status of the poetic chronicler of the fragility of time and place.
This postcard series is atypical of his later work and its exact origins remain something of a mystery. Its images, which depict Paris’s petits métiers, or little trades, were meant to capture the ephemeral color of life and are part of a long tradition of depicting skilled tradespeople plying their wares. In them, Atget presents the market stands, the odd jobs, the cobbled together shops, and the informal entertainment that gave Paris its piquancy and eternally renewing liveliness. This book presents the cards in sequence, along with an introduction that explains Atget’s participation in photographic trends of his day to document types, and his influence on later photography, including his own and that of others such as Irving Penn. With exquisitely reproduced images and elegantly translated captions, it provides a peek at a disappearing Paris and at Atget before he was Atget.
About the Author
Benjamin Weiss is Director of Collections and Leonard A. Lauder Curator of Visual Culture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.