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Berenice Abbott, a renowned twentieth-century photographer, viewed taking pictures as a way to document reality deeply, honestly, and accurately. On a radio interview, she once said, “Documentary photography tries to get at the root of things. . . . We cannot go on just looking at things on the surface. . . . This means getting at things as they really are, which is not always pretty; in fact, almost never pretty.”
She maintained this objective approach to photography when working on Changing New York, a photo project that focused on the radical transformation of New York City from 1929 through the 1930s. She captured 300-plus photos that show the city’s architecture, a diverse array of people, and their way of life amidst change.
View a selection of Abbott’s work below, with helpful insights you can apply to your own photography.
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20 世纪著名摄影师贝伦尼斯·阿博特（Berenice Abbott）认为拍照是深入、诚实、准确地记录现实的一种方式。在一次电台采访中，她曾经说：“纪实摄影试图找到事物的根源。我们不能继续只看表面上的东西。这意味着要得到他们真正的东西，哪怕并不总是漂亮的；事实上，几乎从来都不漂亮。”
她在拍摄“改变纽约”时，保持了这种客观的摄影方法，这个摄影项目主要关注从 1929 年到 1930 年代纽约市的彻底变革。她拍摄了三百多张照片，展示了这个城市的建筑，不同的人群，以及他们在变化中的生活方式。
浏览下面 Berenice 的作品选集，你可以把她那些建设性的见解用到自己的摄影作品中。
Look for Change
Abbott photographed the transformation of New York City into an urban metropolis. She documented old, historical buildings before they were torn down and skyscrapers constructed in their stead.
In addition to capturing the before and after, she often looked for moments where old and new stood juxtaposed — a horse and carriage beside an automobile or a brick building dwarfed by a modern high-rise.
* Try this — Like Abbott, look for advancements happening around you, being mindful of both developments that happen quickly (like technological improvements) and those that happen subtly over time (like a person aging). Consider what about the present you want to preserve for the future. To get started, look for things that feel slightly out of place, either because they feel a bit outdated or because they feel new and unfamiliar.
*试试这个——就像 Berenice 一样，寻找你周围正在发生的改变，留心那些迅速发生的变化（比如技术革新）和那些随着时间而微妙发生的事情（比如一个人的变老）。想想那些你会想为将来留下的现在的记忆。开始前，可以找找那些感觉有点过时的东西，要不是那些感觉有点老旧的东西，要不就是感觉起来新鲜和不熟悉的东西。
Use Composition to Express a Feeling
As New York City was rapidly developing, Abbott felt a growing disconnect between progress and preserving people’s humanity. “I may feel that the skyscrapers are beautiful and majestic,” she said. “Or I may feel that they are ugly, inhuman, illogical, ridiculous, pathological growths which have no place in the planned city. Whatever I think and feel about the skyscrapers, I say through understanding of and application of composition.”
By aiming her camera up at the towering buildings, she made the structures appear threatening and foreboding. By shooting downwards from the tops of the skyscrapers, she captured people as mere dots on the street below, giving the sense that the city overshadowed people’s individuality.
* Try this — When you are shooting, think about how your perspective expresses how you feel about the subject you are documenting. For example, to convey that you feel part of a scene, try shooting from your waist. The image will likely take on the aesthetic of a snapshot, showing that you were present in the moment rather than just an observer.
Document a Complete Story
Although Abbott is most often recognized for her architectural images, her goal was to produce a thorough portrait of New York City, and that meant documenting much more than just the buildings.
尽管 Berenice 的建筑照最为人熟知，但她的目标是对纽约市进行一次彻底的描绘，这意味着，她记录的绝不仅仅是建筑物。
She explained it this way, “Everything in the city is properly part of its story — its physical body of brick, stone, steel, glass, wood, its lifeblood of living, breathing men and women. Streets, vistas, panoramas, bird’s-eye views and women’s-eye views, the noble and the shameful, high life and low life, tragedy, comedy, squalor, wealth, the mighty towers of skyscrapers, the ignoble facades of slums, people at work, people at home, people at play — these are but a small part of the city.”
* Try this – While your project may not be as exhaustive as Abbott’s, try taking whatever subject matter you are shooting and photograph it from as many angles as you can think of. Make it your goal to document something as completely as possible. Shoot a scene from above, below, and straight on. Then play with distance, moving close to photograph the details within the scene or further away to understand scale.