She became interested in Atget's work,  and managed to persuade him to sit for a portrait in An early tangible result was the book Atget, photographe de Paris  , in which she is described as photo editor. In addition to her book The World of Atget , she provided the photographs for A Vision of Paris , published a portfolio, Twenty Photographs, and wrote essays. After New York when she was doing portrait photography most of the time, she moved on to documentary photography. She went back to Paris, closed up her studio, and returned to New York in September. She was a central figure that created bridge with photographic hubs in New York City.
Atget died in and she bought all his work which contained over negatives and glass slides from him and brought it to New York in This was a book made to show the transformation of New York City. She focused more on the physical part of the transformation rather than the mental part of it, such as the change of neighborhoods and the replacement of skyscrapers to low rise buildings.
Abbott worked on her New York project independently for six years, unable to get financial support from organizations such as the Museum of the City of New York , foundations such as the Guggenheim Foundation , or individuals. She supported herself with commercial work and teaching at the New School of Social Research beginning in She continued to take the photographs of the city, but she had assistants to help her both in the field and in the office.
This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing, and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in , she had produced photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York.
She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realize that their environment was a consequence of their collective behavior and vice versa. Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favor of what she described as "fantastic" contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilized a subject if she approved of it , or destabilized it if she scorned it.
Abbott's ideas about New York were highly influenced by Lewis Mumford 's historical writings from the early s, which divided American history into a series of technological eras. Abbott, like Mumford, was particularly critical of America's "paleotechnic era", which, as he described it, emerged at end of the American Civil War , a development called by other historians the Second Industrial Revolution.
Like Mumford, Abbott was hopeful that, through urban planning efforts aided by her photographs , Americans would be able to wrest control of their cities from paleotechnic forces, and bring about what Mumford described as a more humane and human-scaled, "neotechnic era".
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Abbott's agreement with Mumford can be seen especially in the ways that she photographed buildings that had been constructed in the paleotechnic era—before the advent of urban planning. Most often, buildings from this era appear in Abbott's photographs in compositions that made them look downright menacing.
McCausland was an ardent supporter of Abbott, writing several articles for the Springfield Daily Republican , as well as for Trend and New Masses the latter under the pseudonym Elizabeth Noble. In addition, McCausland contributed the captions for the book of Abbott's photographs entitled Changing New York  which was published in Pike Street at Henry Street Pennsylvania Station Wanamaker's department store, Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street Financial District rooftops Seventh Avenue , looking south from 35th Street House doorway on East 4th Street , Manhattan Hot dog stand, North Moore Street , Manhattan In Henry-Russell Hitchcock asked Abbott to photograph two subjects: antebellum architecture and the architecture of H.
Two decades later, Abbott and McCausland traveled US 1 from Florida to Maine, and Abbott photographed the small towns and growing automobile-related architecture. Shortly after the trip, Abbott underwent a lung operation.
She was told she should move from New York City due to air pollution. Later, she moved to nearby Monson and remained in Maine until her death in Most of her work is shown in the United States, but a couple photographs are shown in Europe. Abbott was part of the straight photography movement, which stressed the importance of photographs being unmanipulated in both subject matter and developing processes.
Most of Abbott's work was influenced by her unhappy and lonely childhood. This gave her the strength and determination to follow her dreams. Throughout her career, Abbott's photography was very much a display of the rise in development of technology and society. Her works documented and praised the New York landscape. This was all guided by her belief that a modern-day invention such as the camera deserved to document the 20th century. Abbott was not only a photographer, but also founded the corporation, "House of Photography," from to , to develop, promote and sell some of her inventions.
She stayed with scientific pictures for twenty years until she died.
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These included a distortion enlarging easel, which created unusual effects on images developed in a darkroom, and the telescopic lighting pole, known today by many studio photographers as an "autopole," to which lights can be attached at any level. Owing to poor marketing, the House of Photography quickly lost money, and with the deaths of two designers, the company closed.
Abbott's style of straight photography helped her make important contributions to scientific photography.
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From to , she produced a series of photographs for a high-school physics textbook, developed by the Physical Science Study Committee project based at MIT to improve secondary school physics teaching. Her work included images of wave patterns in water and stroboscopic images of moving objects, such as Bouncing ball in diminishing arcs , which was featured on the cover of the textbook. The film Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century, which showed of her black and white photographs, suggests that she was a "proud proto-feminist"; someone who was ahead of her time in feminist theory.
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