The Lost Streets of Old Paris: Spectacular Historical Photos of Paris in the 1900s by Eugène Atget

Eugène Atget took these stunning historical photos that documented Paris’s architecture and street scenes before they were destroyed by modernization. During the late 1880s, Atget began photography and supplied studies to painters, architects, and stage designers. He influenced two generations of American photographers, Walker Evans and Lee Friedlander, first with his photographs of deserted streets, stairways, street life, and shop windows in the 1920s (published in La Révolution surréaliste in 1926, with a fourth showing a crowd watching an eclipse on the cover) and then with his documentary vision. The diffuse lighting in his photographs, many of which were taken at dawn, creates a feeling of space and ambience.

Paris’s medieval neighborhoods had recently been destroyed and transformed into wide avenues and public parks due to Haussmannization, a modernization campaign led by (and named after) Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. Atget’s interest in Paris had been a constant factor in his documentation work for other artists. Still, around 1900 that interest took center stage as he became a specialist in Parisian scenes. In the years following WW1, he mainly used matte albumen paper, gelatin-silver printing-out paper, or two types of albumen contact-printed negatives. When Atget took a photograph, he would develop, wash, and fix the negative, then assign it to one of his filing categories with the following consecutive number that he would write in graphite on the verso of the negative and scratch into the emulsion.

Atget temporarily stored his archives in his basement for safekeeping during World War I, and he almost completely stopped taking pictures. He sold thousands of negatives to institutions between 1920 and 1921. When he became financially independent, he began photographing prostitutes in Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux parks. In 1925, while working with Man Ray, Berenice Abbott visited Atget, bought some of his photographs, and tried to interest other artists in his work. Through various articles, exhibitions, and books, she promoted Atget and sold her collection to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968.

Eugène Atget died in 1931. Four years after his death, the American photographer Ansel Adams wrote:

The Atget prints are direct and emotionally clean records of a rare and subtle perception, and represent perhaps the earliest expression of true photographic art.

#1 Boutique art nouveau, 45 rue st. Augustin, 1904-05.

#7 La Villette, rue Asselin, a sex worker on her shift in front of her door, 1921.

#9 Hotel de Montmorency – Rue de Montmorency 5, 1900.

#12 Cour de Rouen – boulevard St. Germain, circa 1900.

#13 Hotel de Charost – Pauline Borghese – Ambassade d’Angleterre 39 Fbg. St. Honore, 1901.

#15 Maison de Benjamin Franklin – rue de Penthievre 26 , 1901.

#21 Au Port Salut – Cabaret Rue des Fosses St. Jacques, 1903.

#25 Hotel Thiroux de Montsange Rue de la Boetie 111, 1905.

#26 Passage Moliere Vue prise de la rue St. Marti, 1906.

#27 Coin de la rue Vauvieliers et Berger 15 et 13, 1907.

#29 Hotel des Abbes de Royaumont 4 Rue du Jour, 1907.

#30 Maison d’Andre Chenier en 1793 – 97 rue de Clery, 1907.

#31 Porte de Menilmontant – glacis de fortifications Guinguette, 1907.

#32 Restes de l’hotel St. Chaumont 226 Rue St. Denis, 1907.

#36 5 Rue Grenier St. Lazare passe dans le quartier – pour au ancien Hotel Buffon, 1908.

#39 Coin Eglise St. Nicolas des Champs Rue Cunin Gridaine, 1908.

#41 Entree du Passage Moliere 157 Rue St. Martin, 1908.

#45 Hotel de Montmorency – 5 rue de Montmorency, 1908.

#46 Hotel de Montmorency – 5 rue de Montmorency, 1908.

#47 Hotel Lenois de Mezieres payeur des rentes 19 Rue Michel le conte, 1908.

#48 Hotel Lenois de Mezieres payeur des rentes 19 Rue Michel le conte, 1908.

#52 Maison de Rapport du Couvent St. Lazare – 105 Fbg. St. Denis, 1909.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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