Eugène Atget (French, 1857–1927) Untitled (Staircase Inside the Palais Royal), ca. 1900 Albumen print Gift of Paul F. Walter (OC 1957), 2008.36.98
Like Charles Meryon before him, Eugène Atget set out to systematically document old neighborhoods in Paris that were rapidly disappearing. In addition to photographing old buildings and architectural features such as the staircase of the Palais Royal, Atget—dubbed the “Balzac of the camera”—studied small shop-fronts and street vendors once prevalent in Paris and dwindling in numbers at the turn of the century. Little known during his lifetime, Atget was discovered in the mid-1920s by Man Ray and Bernice Abbot, two American expatriate photographers associated with the Surrealist movement, who admired the hauntingly expressive qualities of Atget’s work.