Guide to Better Photography

Berenice ABBOTT

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ABBOTT, Berenice. A Guide to Better Photography. New York: Crown, 1941. Quarto, original tan cloth.

First edition of Berenice Abbott’s influential Guide, signed by her, featuring a rare glimpse into the creative principles of this major American photographer, with 75 black-and-white photogravures by Abbott and leading contemporaries such as Walker Evans, Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams.

Berenice Abbott’s stature as “one of the most important advocates of modernist-documentary photography” is assured by her landmark 1939 work Changing New York (Parr & Badger I:141), and this seminal early Guide, an “acclaimed manual” on photography published at the height of her most creative period, when Abbott also taught at the New School for Social Research and restructured their photography program (Lenman, 1). At a time when photographers rarely explored in depth the nuances of their craft, this Guide by Abbott—“a pioneer of modern American photography”—memorably features her 1932 “Night View,” which is “perhaps her most famous picture, a view of New York at night taken from the top of the Empire State Building, presenting the city as a glittering tapestry of light, with massive buildings thrusting up from the criss-crossed streets” (New York Times). The Guide also includes her iconic portraits of Joyce and Atget, along with images by contemporaries such as Bourke-White, Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams and many others. “Few mediums train the eye as acutely as photography,” writes Abbott, “where experience accumulates a store of visual memories and awareness” (102). With 75 photogravures, most full-page, including 27 by Abbott. Without scarce dust jacket. Owner inkstamp.

Plates generally fresh and bright, a few with some abrasions to image and light margin dampstaining, mild soiling and bit of toning to cloth. An extremely good copy, rarely found signed.

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