Un Coin, Rue de Seine

Eugène Atget (1857-1927) who documented the Parisian street life in the 1890s and the 1900s foreshadowed many street photojournalists of the 20th century. During the sleepy hours of the morning or night, Atget portrayed cobblestone courtyards, public-squares, parks, shop-fronts and buildings with a flair and a style that would transform plain documentary photography into high art. Even though Atget’s storefront images are devoid of people, there are unmistakable human qualities about them, and they captured the very essence of the Belle Epoque.

Although he also left behind street portraits of tradesmen (whose images he took for money), Atget devoted his energies to desolate public squares and winding back alleys. He inspired many Cubist and Surrealist painters, and influenced Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Leni Riefenstahl and Irving Penn. Meeting Atget shortly before his death, American photographer Berenice Abbott was so inspired that she purchased his estate and spent the next 50 years popularizing Atget’s work.

Eugene Atget’s Un Coin, Rue de Seine is one of his most reproduced images. It is thought to be made in 1924, to document the street before the building in the centre was demolished. Atget rarely dated his prints, relying on arcane, but self-evident system of numbering negatives. This led to one of the most frustrating obstacles in analyzing his work.