Researching Eugene Atget

Eugene Atgets image, Saint Cloud is used in Exercise 1.3(1) Line. This is because the French urban street Photographer produced images with a strong sense of depth with the use of lines.

I chose to investigate Eugene Atgets and his images and influences.

Eugene Atget


It is such a shame that Atget died before he seen what an influence his work was and is on modern photographers.

It seems that he was obsessed with photographing Paris and all of its streets before modernization crept in. I was surprised to find out that he never photographed the Eiffel Tower as I think to him this would of signalled the future development of Paris and the loss of all the old ways and places.

Between 1897 and 1927  that’s over 30 years, Atget built up a vast photographic essay of all of Paris ‘s old buildings which he would eventually sell to the Government and other interested parties to make a living.

His photographs show the city in its various facets: narrow lanes and courtyards in the historic city centre with its old buildings, of which some were soon to be demolished, magnificent palaces from before World War II, bridges and quays on the banks of the Seine, shops with their window displays. He photographed stairwells and other architectural details.In addition to architecture and the urban environment, he also photographed small tradesmen, rag collectors and prostitutes.

I really enjoy his portraits, you can feel the genuine influence of the subject in the image which makes me wonder were they staged or not.

Atget photographed Paris with a wooden bellows camera with a rapid rectilinear lens. When offered a modern camera he declined saying ‘he liked the way he did things’.

Distinguishing characteristics of Atget’s photography include a wispy, drawn-out images with a  sense of light due to his long exposures. The emptiness of most of his streets and the sometimes blurred figures in those with people are partly due to his already antiquated technique thus extended exposure times which required many of his images to be taken early in the morning before pedestrians and traffic appeared,this is where the sense of nostalgia and depth is seen in my opinion.

If you would like to read more and see more of Atget images as I did, here are some interesting links

I also read ‘The Genius of Photography’ by Gerry Badger p55-56 for insight into Atget.









3 thoughts on “Researching Eugene Atget

  1. Regarding Atget’s trees–he seemed through his photos to have been captivated by trees and their auras–captivated in a positive way–such that the foreground tree sets the mood for the entire photo. IMHO.


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