A Photographic Escher


Eugène Atget, Escalier 25 rue des Blancs-Manteaux, 1903-04 (2008.112.21)

French photographer Eugène Atget,  (1857-1927) was an unsuccessful actor and painter before he became a photographer in the late 1880s. During his lifetime he focused on documenting Paris and its surroundings, for a while specializing on Old Paris as it was disappearing. He made a living selling prints of his meticulous and prodigious production of photographs of courtyards, doors, streets, houses, stairs, and other ornamental decorations. His clients were mostly artists, architects, decorators, publishers, libraries, and museums. Only posthumously did he become recognized amongst his peers as an artist rather than solely as a maker of useful documents.

The motif of Escalier 25 rue des Blancs-Manteaux, located in the fourth arrondissement in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, is a narrow and ancient staircase, which, due to its perspective, brings to mind M. C. Escher’s impossible architectural drawings. However in the case it is the play of light and shadow that gives the subject an almost surreal appearance.

Alp Klanten, ICP-Bard 2013

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