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Remembering Berenice Abbott: Changing New York (1935-1938)

July 17, 2013 /Photography News/ Born 115 years ago today, on 17 July 1898, Berenice Abbott (d. December 9, 1991) was an American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s.

She proposed Changing New York, her grand project to document New York City, to the Federal Art Project (FAP) in 1935. The FAP was a Depression-era government program for unemployed artists and workers in related fields such as advertising, graphic design, illustration, photofinishing, and publishing. 

Abbott's efforts resulted in a book in 1939, in advance of the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow NY. At the project's conclusion, the FAP distributed complete sets of Abbott's images to high schools, libraries and other public institutions in the metropolitan area.

These images are a selection of New York Public Library holdings.

Herald Square, 34th and Broadway, Manhattan. July 16, 1936. Notes: Looking down from 'el' station at intersection of 34th and Broadway; pedestrians, traffice, Macy's and billboards, Saks at 34th St. Code: I.B. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Pier 13, North River, Manhattan. April 09, 1936. Notes: Code: II.A.C.1. Lackawanna Railroad Freight station, pier 13, trucks and a wagon in front. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Talman Street, between Jay and Bridge street, Brooklyn. May 22, 1936. Notes: African American woman sits at street edge with two children, empty lots on either side of street, old 2 and 3 story clapboard houses further up. Code: I.A.5.; III.A.4. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Gasoline station, Tremont Avenue and Dock Street, Bronx. July 02, 1936. Notes: Code: II.C.4. Exhibited: Modern Vision #86 Four gas pumps and tall Texaco sign at Abe's Plaza Gas station, with price for gas listed at 11 2/10 cents, cars washed for 95 cents. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Ferry, Central Railroad of New Jersey, Foot of Liberty Street, Manhattan. August 12, 1936. Notes: Horizontal view of neg. #160; ferry building with cabs, vendors out front. Code: II.A.1.d. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Broome Street, Nos. 504-506, Manhattan. October 09, 1935. Notes: Sign company with decorative ironwork along roof, auto radiator shop, in three-story buildings, the elevated railroad just visible at right. Code: I.A.2. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Newsstand, 32nd Street and Third Avenue, Manhattan. November 19, 1935. Notes: Code: III.1.f. Exhibited: Modern Vision #56 Newstand next to State Coffee Shoppe, large display of magazines, ads for sundaes, Coca-Cola above, boxes of sodas below, man at left. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Oak and New Chambers Streets, Manhattan. October 28, 1935. Notes: Code: III.B.1. Exhibited: Modern Vision #57 Festive lights in curlicue designs arch over street, men with tall ladder, wagons, cars, billboards; 'el' and Municipal Bldg. just visible. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, Manhattan. October 03, 1935. Notes: Code: II.C.1. Exhibited: Modern Vision #59 Men stand at entrance to barbershop, pole in front, under the Blossom Restaurant, which has menu painted on windows and board out front. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.
Fulton Street Dock, Manhattan skyline, Manhattan. November 26, 1935. Notes: Code: I.D. Men walk on pier where sailing vessels are moored, skyline beyond. Source: Changing New York / Berenice Abbott. Repository: The New York Public Library. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.


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