Eugene Atget – The Photographer Who Walked Fin de Siècle Paris
Eugene Atget (1857-1927) wandered the streets of Paris dressed in a large black cloak and floppy hat, his camera slung on its tripod over his shoulder. He drifted until something triggered a response which he stopped to photograph.
Photography had not been his first choice. He came to it through work as a sailor, an actor, and finally as an artist. He gave up painting when he realised his talents were pale in comparison to others. But the experience taught Atget of the artist’s need for subject matter which made him consider photography.
His intention was to supply artists with photographs of landscapes, buildings, street scenes, people, animals, and flowers. What he called “Documents for artists.” He thought this would be good business as it meant his photographs would help artists spend more time in the studio and less looking for subject matter.
Paris is the city of the flâneur. Its streets and boulevards invite perambulation. Its arrondissements are filled with hidden beauty that trigger involuntary memory. Atget was a flâneur, who wandered the city waiting for his “madeleine moment” to photograph.