Eugène Atget, Shop Sign, 1899
Eugène Atget (1857-1927) was a French documentary photographer and a pioneer of experimental photographic techniques. After serving in the merchant navy, Atget became an actor in a traveling group, but had to give it up after an infection of his vocal chords. He attempted painting with no success, and became a photographer around 1888, taking it up professionally in 1890. Atget was committed to documenting the streets of Paris before they disappeared with modernization. He utilized unusual techniques, such as reflection, to create powerful and haunting images of Paris and its people. In this photograph, the full title of which is Shop Sign, the Grinder on the corner of the rue des Nonnains-d'Hyères and rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, 4th arrondisment, Atget used a long exposure to create the ghostly repetition of these figures. He shows Paris in motion and the busy life of the city. This photograph also demonstrates remarkable use of depth of field, to show the activity all the way down the street. Atget produced hundred of images of Paris. He preserved the appearance of the city and influenced generations of artists and documentarians.