In Search of Atget

I published In search of Atget, my fifth book on Blurb this morning.  The cover uses a slightly cropped version of the image above, and you can view the whole book on the Blurb site using the link above.

My introduction in the book is rather long to quote in full, but here are a few selected paragraphs that make my intentions at the time clear:

In the summer of 1984 I returned to Paris in search of Atget. It wasn’t one of the re-photographic exercises that were then in vogue. I had little interest in recreating the pictures that he had taken perhaps 60 years earlier; I was in search of his mind, wanting to know more about why he had photographed in the way he did, both on the broader level of his overall project and very much in the detailed way that he approached each image that he made.

My project was an attempt to discover more about Atget as a photographer and also a deliberate homage to him. The following year I put on a small show of these pictures at the college where I was teaching, ‘Paris Revisited – A Homage to Atget’, which attracted little attention.

I deliberately did not take books of his pictures with me to Paris and seek out the exact same views – I wanted more to think how I might photograph in the same sites (and others) rather than reproduce his images, although some turned out to be very similar.

This project was important personally not only for what I learnt about Atget but for the work it prompted me to carry out in the following 15 years on the streets of London. Without the inspiration of Atget which this project strengthened and focussed it would not have happened.

There are pictures in the book that turned out very similar to some of his, and those familiar with his work may recognise them, but I recognised that I was working from a very different cultural background. As it happens I don’t think I did photograph the Eiffel tower, but I did very definitely go to places and take pictures that had they existed he would have hated, such as this:

© 1984, Peter Marshall
La Défense – variant of image in book

But here’s one I think he might have appreciated more:

© 1984, Peter Marshall

The images in the book are nearly all from new scans of the negatives, with all the 55 or so larger images very carefully cleaned up – many of the negatives have suffered from tiny gelatin gobbling  insects lunching out on them over the years. The images on this page come from earlier scans made for my Paris Photos web site, which has most of the others in the book on display as well as others from my visit to Paris in 1984 in the section Paris Revisited.

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