Columbus Circle, Manhattan, 1938

by Berenice Abbott

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Artist Statement

 

This image, Columbus Circle, Manhattan, 1938, taken on February 10, 1938, was one of 302 black and white photographs selected out of the hundreds Abbott shot. The photographer climbed to the ninth floor of the General Motors Building and peered through the Schenley Distillers Corporation billboard for this view of Broadway, Central Park West and West 59th St. Just beyond Gaetano Russo's statue of C.C., we see the two-story American Circle Building topped by a Coca Cola ad, a sign touting the musical review At Home Abroad and the newly-built Mayflower Hotel in the background.

 

Berenice Abbott

 

Berenice Abbott was an American photographer best known for her black and white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s. Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio. She attended the Ohio State University, but left in early 1918. Abbott went to Europe in 1921, spending two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. In addition to her work in the visual arts, Abbott published poetry in the experimental literary journal transition. Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray, looking for somebody who knew nothing about photography and thus would do as he said, hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. In 1926, she had her first solo exhibition (in the gallery Au Sacre du Printemps) and started her own studio on the rue du Bac. In early 1929, Abbott visited New York and was struck by its photographic potential. She moved to the city and began work on her New York project, which she worked on independently until 1935, when she was hired by the Federal Art Project as a project supervisor for her Changing New York project. She continued to take the photographs of the city, but she had assistants to help her both in the field and in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York.

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For our Vintage Editions series, our curators scour historical archives for both timeless classics and heretofore unseen gems. These images come back to life as exhibition-quality prints now available to everyone. As a bonus, purchasing equals patronage: Ten percent of the sales from Vintage Editions prints goes directly into the 20x200 Artist Fund, which helps support our current roster of artists. That furthers one of our core missions: helping more artists make a living by making work.

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