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Berenice Abbott
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Photographer
    (July 17, 1898-December 9, 1991)
    Born in Springfield, Ohio
    Birth name was Bernice Abbott
    Co-founded House of Photography (1947), which developed and sold photographic equipment
    Photographic collections include ‘Changing New York’ (1939), ‘Greenwich Village: Yesterday and Today’ (1949), and ‘A Portrait of Maine’ (1968)
    Wrote ‘A Guide to Better Photography’ (1941)
    She adopted a French spelling of her name at the suggestion of Djuna Barnes.
    House of Photography lost money due to poor marketing.
    She distrusted banks and other financial institutions, keeping most of her money in boxes at her home, which proved disastrous when she lost most of her wealth when her house was burglarized (1984).
    She started as Man Ray’s darkroom assistant; he was impressed with her work and allowed her to use his studio for her own photographs.
    She took portraits of many artists and writers in 1920s Paris, with Sylvia Beach noting, ‘To be 'done' by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott meant you rated as somebody.’
    Avant-garde filmmaker and photographer Ralph Steiner wrote that her work was ‘the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.’
    She invented a telescopic lighting pole.
    She was hired by the Physical Science Study Committee of MIT to produce photographs for high school physics textbooks.
    When a male supervisor told her that ‘nice girls’ did not go to the Bowery, she replied, ‘Buddy, I’m not a nice girl. I’m a photographer, I go anywhere.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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