Eugene Atget

As part of my considering my Assignment 2 ‘Collecting’, I looked again at Eugene Atget’s work.

Atget was born in Libourne, near Bordeaux, in 1857. He came to photography in later life and he died in 1927. The course notes (p24) describe his images as having a strong sense of depth and I was interested in creating depth in my assignment on Views of Filey.

These  images are taken from

Atget snip 1Atget snip 2

Atget snip 4

Atget snip 5

Atget snip 3

Atget’s use of the close foreground tree that overlaps the distant building, and a deep depth of field in the first photograph creates a beautiful image with a sense of depth.  In the second image, he uses the larger size of the near front cart, the diminished size of the barges in the distance and the connecting path to create depth, as if you could walk straight in to the image.

I include the last three images to show Atget’s use of steps to create a feeling of depth. I had not considered this as a technique before and I really like the effect. The steps start at the front of the image, giving the feeling that the viewer could walk up, or down, into the picture.

In retrospect I considered that I could have used this technique in my assignment. In Filey there are numerous examples of old steps down to the beach that could have made interesting photographs and encouraged me to use different points of view and lines to lead the eye into the image.

Learning update: EYV Part 4:

I considered Atget again as part of my research for Part 4 of the course. This time, I was looking at his initial use of flat light with no shadows to ‘illuminate his subject with an even clarity’ (course notes p 82), and his later use of light with shadow to create mood.

‘Atget’s treatment of light and shadow was central to his style, especially in the expressive final phase of his career. In his early views of Paris, Atget the documentarian sought to illuminate his subject with an even clarity, the best to convey information. He usually made such images—see, for example, Environs, Amiens—in the middle of the day, when shadows were minimal. Atget’s late photographs, however, are frequently marked by subjective light and deep shadows. Often made early in the morning, these pictures—such as Parc de Sceaux—use light and shadow to create a mood rather than to describe a place; they mark the apex of Atget’s formal and expressive investigations of the medium.‘ (2017 National Gallery of Art)

Here are the two images referred to:


Atget: Environs, Amiens

Low contrast, no shadows: This images seems to suggest a calm, gentle environment. The consistent light and the avoidance of extremes of contrast produce an image that conveys the natural land as quiet and peaceful.


Atget: Parc de Sceaux (1925)

High contrast, shadows create mood. In contrast, this image, with the use of high contrast and shadows, seems to suggest a mood of mystery. This image reminds me of the work of Sally Mann (see my post, link below), in her Southern Landscapes. Atget’s images also seem to show aging and death – perhaps the statue here could be seen as a grave stone. The shadows emphasise the feeling of neglect.

These images are effective in showing two very different lighting techniques and their impact on the interpretation of an image.


National Gallery of Art (2017) The Art of Documentary Photography. At: Accessed 22.1.17

See my post on Sally Mann  here



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