Women in Photography: Berenice Abbott

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at some pivotal contributors to the photographic medium. Since the early innovation of the daguerrotype process, women had been experimenting with photography and have been using this expressive form of communication as a method to tell meaningful stories, archive history, visualize style and illustrate dreams.

Our first focus is the photographer Berenice Abbott (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991) , born in Springfield, Ohio and later pursuing sculpture in Paris, Berlin and New York, working as a studio assistant to Man Ray, a landmark figure in photography. Thus begun her road in the medium, soon meeting the French photographer Eugene Atget whose now-famous depictions of Paris streets and their transformation during the 1920s were not at the time well known. Her appreciation and promotion of his work, to the point of purchasing his estate after his death, has been instrumental towards Eugene Atget being a household name among photographers today.

Abbott returned to the US in 1929, and secured funding from the Federal Art Project to photograph the transition of New York City during the Great Depression. These were published in her best known series Changing New York (1936-38) which showed the movement of people within the ever-changing landscape of the city.

“A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term—selectivity.”

— BERENICE ABBOTT

Today Berenice Abbott is considered a pillar of photographic history, particularly among the street shooters, documentary and archivalists, and architecture buffs. Through her imagery, Abbott was able to express a significant and almost ominous dynamic of scale between people of New York and the increasingly large buildings that surrounded them. Her work remains as a passionate document of city life during a critical time in our history.

PHOTOS: #BKCShoutout Bob Loudon

BOB LOUDON

BOB LOUDON

When he's not busy teaching biology to his students or looking after his new grandson, #BKCMember Bob Loudon is likely to be out exploring the city with his camera and producing lots of great images. In fact, he is one of our key members that consistently delivers thoughtful photos with unique perspectives for our monthly assignments.  Check out the interview below to learn more about Bob's interests in the environment and humanity and how it has influenced his work. 

#BKCShoutout is a weekly check-in with our students and active BKC members, posting their works-in-progress and achievements.  We hope to learn a little more about each photographer, and share about their inspiration, process and goals.  To be considered for a future #BKCShoutout, contact Lanna at lanna@wearebkc.com


Why do you make photographs?  What drives you?

As I’ve gotten older, I think what matters most are the connections we make with our humanity, with people. To me, photography is about sharing; sharing what I see when I travel to other parts of the world as well as when I walk out into my neighborhood. 

 

Who was your earliest inspiration and why?

I’m assuming photographic inspiration? Probably some of the great landscape and environmentalists photographers like Galen Rowell and Ansel Adams. I got my beginnings primarily as a landscape photographer and these two photographers, in particular, spoke to me with their love of nature and importance of protecting it. How they portrayed the essence of the natural world really and, in some cases, distant cultures not our own touched me. In recent years, a number of the great street photographers and photojournalists (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Robert Doisneau, Edouard Boubat, Eugene Richards, Peter Turnley to name a few) are centermost in my life. 

 

Name 3 things that are essential to you:

 1) Others who love me in spite of myself.

2) Minimum of two cups of coffee a day.

3) To be able to go to sleep at the end of the day feeling that I’ve made the most of my time each day. 

 

Selected Works by Bob Loudon (click to see full view)

What makes you happy?

Being a grandparent, traveling (and then coming home!), making photographs.

 

How do you prepare yourself for each day? 

Always, always coffee first before I do anything! Usually, I skim over the news (scary to do these days!), try to have at least one hour of quiet, personal time before I head out of the house (I don’t like to rush out in the morning).

 

What themes or ideas do you strive to communicate in your work?   

I think the idea of people in the context of a place or particular environment. A lot of the cityscapes/street photos I make reflect this. In recent years, I’ve been greatly affected by the work of Peter Turnley and the connections he makes with people through his photography. There is a soulfulness, a love and respect for humanity in his work. I am, only very recently, attempting to infuse my work more with these beautiful ideas. How to make photographs that people can relate to and connect with and that portray the essence of humanity: this is what I am grappling with now.

 

Complete the sentence: I've never tried it before but I would love to ...

So, I’ve never tried it but I would love to put together and publish a photo book of some of my work.  

 

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

First, I put the camera down (sometimes for a few days) and I look at the work of those I admire. Then, I may just begin photographing anything. It could be a fence, the city skyline, whatever, and I try to do it in ways that I’ve never done it before. Generally, I find that pausing from my photography for a short time and then doing a project that’s very limited in scope (such as what I mentioned above) helps get me back into the flow.  

 

What 3 websites / blogs / media platforms do you visit most?

  1. Peterturnley.com
  2. Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson (facebook)
  3. Eugene Richards (facebook)
  4. Most anything ICP (International Center of Photography) related -- I know, that’s four but….

 

What’s the one most important thing you learned through BKC?

I think to not be afraid to explore and try new things. It’s not always about lenses and f-stops; to try to allow your life to inform your photography and make a human connection through my work.

 

What do you want to learn next?

Spanish! 

 

To view more work and connect with Bob: 
@bobloudon
https://bobloudonphotography.com

PHOTOS: #BKCShoutout Maria Mammina

MARIA MAMMINA

MARIA MAMMINA

Maria has been an active part of our BKC Community for a few years now, and has taken pretty much all of our classes.  Her interests in documentary work, particularly in current political hotbed Russia, has taken her across the world as well as deep into immigrant neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Brighton Beach.  Check out some of her work and learn about her progress below!

#BKCShoutout is a weekly check-in with our students and active BKC members, posting their works-in-progress and achievements.  We hope to learn a little more about each photographer, and share about their inspiration, process and goals.  To be considered for a future #BKCShoutout, contact Lanna lanna@wearebkc.com


Why do you make photographs?  What drives you?

I’m the traveler in my family so at first, photographs were a way to share my experiences with my far away people. Then it became a passion to learn how to make photographs well - from a technical standpoint. Now that I am comfortable with my camera, it’s to convey my ideas through an image. That’s the hardest part.

 

Who was your earliest inspiration and why?

My grandpa was the resident photographer for my family — I remember him lugging his Canon SLR (and huge flash!) everywhere when I was growing up in Florida. I think that’s what inspired me to start taking photos of everything.

 

Name 3 things that are essential to you:

  1. Quiet time
  2. Learning new things
  3. Being outside — especially near mountains or a large body of water.

 

Selected Works by Maria Mammina (click to see full view)

What makes you happy?

Cooking meals for my friends and playing with my nephew.

 

How do you prepare yourself for each day? 

Drink coffee with heavy whipping cream! But seriously my 2018 goal is to have a better morning  routine so I start the day fresh. And now that I put it in print, I have to do it.

 

What themes or ideas do you strive to communicate in your work?   

 Recently I’ve been focused on the everyday, the simple life. So much of New York City is about striving, for your career, your goals, your bank account. But in this city that values the extraordinary, the ordinary can be just as powerful and beautiful. That’s what I want my work to show.

 

Complete the sentence: I've never tried it before but I would love to ...

Write a book.

 

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

Take a class at BKC :) 

 

What 3 websites / blogs / media platforms do you visit most?

  1. Absolutely love Miller Mobley’s portraiture: http://www.millermobley.com/ (I follow him on Instagram)
  2. Eurasianet.org (where I work), and especially my colleague Danil Usmanov’s work: https://eurasianet.org/search/danil%20usmanov 
  3. The Accidentally Wes Anderson account on Instagram

 

What’s the one most important thing you learned through BKC?

Too many things to write, but what I most appreciate is slowly learning to trust my own ability and my instinct for a photograph or project. It’s taking a long time, but the membership program and classes have really helped my confidence in my work.

 

What do you want to learn next?

I’ve started learning videography, and hope to create a Docuseries about Brooklyn neighborhoods with a few talented colleagues.

 

To view more work and connect with Maria
@birdonaledge
www.mariamammina.com

The #24HourProject

On Saturday March 21st, BKC will be taking part in the #24HOURPROJECT, a one-day street photography event where thousands of photographers from all walks of the world will pound the pavement and document humanity in their local cities while posting to Instagram in real time.  This interactive event was conceived by two photographers Renzo Grande @aliveinnyc and Sam Smotherman@whittiersam with the vision to create the worlds largest street photography experiment.  BKC plans to contribute to this global archive of documenting human life with our 5 - hour class Street Challenge: #24HOURPROJECT so sign up while it is on sale and come along for the ride!!

Lead by our instructor Larson Harley we will spend 5 - hours roving around New York City exploring parks, alleys, forgotten neighborhoods, multiple boroughs, and the subterranean jungle of the NYC subways. Participants in this challenging street photography workshop will be encouraged to register for the 24hour Project and post a photo every hour to Instagram using the 24hour Project and BKC's unique tags. 

Check out Larson's website: www.larsonharley.com and Instagram (https://instagram.com/larsonharley) to see some of his street photography. 

Starting now and for 24 hours we have marked down the price from $99 to $79.  This is a one time only class and the spots will go quickly!