Pages Navigation Menu

How Berenice Abbott’s Photographs Look to a 21st Century Photographer

How Berenice Abbott’s Photographs Look to a 21st Century Photographer



North and South: Berenice Abbott’s U.S. Route 1.


When I delved into photography in the mid-1970s, Berenice Abbott became known to me as one of the greats of modern photography.  Her work informed and influenced my early work and still interests and inspires me forty years later.

Now, having had a successful career of my own in photography, when I study Ms. Abbott’s photographs on exhibit at The Wolfsonian-FIU, I do not find them as aesthetically compelling as some of her renowned contemporaries like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, Robert Frank, William Klein, Robert Capa, Imogen Cunningham, and Group f/64.  What her exhibited photographs from her 1954 East Coast road trip (from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine) do reveal and convey are an IMPORTANT look into the world of mid and pre-mid-century America, and the growth and development of Modernism.

Consequently, this preserved window into the world of our parents and grandparents imbues what may have originally been considered mundane imagery with powerful feeling and ennui that can help us understand where we came from and how we got to where we are now.

Ms. Abbott’s views of the American urban, suburban and rural landscape of her day gently and clearly reveal details of things we are still familiar with today — power lines, lamp fixtures, signs, walkways and roadways and a host of worldly elements which linger and endure.

One of my key recommendations to aspiring photographers is to study, observe and contemplate the vast, rich treasure of existing photography, and all art for that matter, to learn, by osmosis, about form, perspective, lighting and emotional content.  In this regard, I highly recommend experiencing Berenice Abbott’s work for its historical significance and its glimpse into a life and journey dedicated to showing us our world and our place in it.


Editor’s Note:  As a photographer in the motion picture industry, Robert Zuckerman’s images have become the advertising and publicity campaigns for such films as “The Crow,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Any Given Sunday,” “Training Day,” “Terminator 3,” “Bad Boys 2”, “National Treasure,” “Transformers,” “Pursuit of Happyness” and “The Great Debaters,” among others, as well as television series including “The Shield,” “Rescue Me” and “Nip/Tuck.” He has made album cover and movie poster photography for Will Smith and was invited to be the personal photographer for the family of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz.  His book “Kindsight” is a collection of photographs and accompanying texts by Zuckerman illuminating the richness of everyday life encounters and experiences.  Mr. Zuckerman is the Director of Photography for Inspicio.


Robert Zuckerman. Self-portrait.