Modernity in the Photographs of Eugène Atget Restricted; Files & ToC

McKittrick, Anna (Spring 2022)

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Photographer Eugène Atget is known for his images of Paris on the cusp of significant modernization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among scholars interested in the meaning of Atget’s art, his photographs of historical subjects have set the tone for interpretation, provoking an emphasis on his supposed nostalgia for a dying or past world. In place of this consensus view, this paper suggests that Atget was centrally preoccupied with modernity, and probed it using comic elements and other hallmarks of modern visual language in his photographs. This argument applies to Atget images of historical and modern subjects, albeit differently—Atget photographed historical subjects to question if forms from the past were still valued in his modernizing world, and photographed modernity to highlight what he took to be its characteristic proliferation of similar objects and forms.

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