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June 12, 2022

28 Stunning Black and White Photos of Manhattan Taken by Berenice Abbott in 1935 and 1936

An American photographer, Berenice Abbott was a central figure in and important bridge between the photographic circles and cultural hubs of Paris and New York. She was born in Springfield, Ohio, and in 1918 moved to New York, where she studied sculpture independently. In 1921, Abbott moved to Paris and continued her study of sculpture there and, later, in Berlin, before returning to Paris and becoming an assistant at the Man Ray Studio, where she would master photography.

Pike and Henry Streets

Arriving back in New York in 1929, Abbott was struck by the rapid transformation of the built landscape. “Old New York is fast disappearing,” Abbott observed. “At almost any point on Manhattan Island, the sweep of one's vision can take in the dramatic contrasts of the old and the new and the bold foreshadowing of the future. This dynamic quality should be caught and recorded immediately in a documentary interpretation of New York City. The city is in the making and unless this transition is crystalized now in permanent form, it will be forever lost.... The camera alone can catch the swift surfaces of the cities today and speaks a language intelligible to all.”

On the eve of the Great Depression she began a series of documentary photographs of the city that, with the support of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1939, debuted in 1939 as the traveling exhibition and publication Changing New York.

Take a look at the streets of Manhattan in 1935 and 1936 through these stunning black and white pictures taken by Abbott:

40th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, from Salmon Tower 11 West 42nd Street

Fulton Street Dock, Manhattan skyline

Seventh Avenue Looking South from 35th Street

Waterfront, South Street

West Side of Gramercy Park West, nos. 3-4, Manhattan

Broome Street no. 512-514

Daily News Building, 220 East 42nd Street

Spring and Varick Streets

South and DePeyster Streets

Murray Hill Hotel, from Park Avenue and 40th Street

Gus Hills Minstrels, 1890-1898 Park Avenue

El’ station, Sixth and Ninth Avenue Lines downtown side, 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue

Oldest apartment house in New York City, 142 East 18th Street

Mulberry and Prince Streets

Fish Market, South Street

Firehouse, Park Avenue, East 135th Street, Manhattan

Gramercy Park, nos. 3-5

Manhattan Bridge Looking up from Bowery and Canal Street

Washington Square North, nos. 21-25, Manhattan

Lyric Theatre, 100 Third Avenue

Department of Docks Building, Pier A

Canyon Broadway and Exchange Place

Starrett-Lehigh Building, 601 West 26th Street

Downtown Skyport, Foot of Wall Street

Cedar Street from William Street

Fifth Avenue Houses, Nos. 4, 6, 8

Broad Street looking toward Wall Street

(via MoMA)


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