Stunning Black and White Photos of Manhattan Taken by Berenice Abbott in 1935 and 1936

Seventh Avenue Looking South from 35th Street

An American photographer, Berenice Abbott was a central figure in and important bridge between the photographic circles and cultural hubs of Paris and New York.

She was born in Springfield, Ohio, and in 1918 moved to New York, where she studied sculpture independently. In 1921, Abbott moved to Paris and continued her study of sculpture there and, later, in Berlin, before returning to Paris and becoming an assistant at the Man Ray Studio, where she would master photography.


Pike and Henry Streets
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Arriving back in New York in 1929, Abbott was struck by the rapid transformation of the built landscape. “Old New York is fast disappearing,” Abbott observed. “At almost any point on Manhattan Island, the sweep of one’s vision can take in the dramatic contrasts of the old and the new and the bold foreshadowing of the future. This dynamic quality should be caught and recorded immediately in a documentary interpretation of New York City. The city is in the making and unless this transition is crystalized now in permanent form, it will be forever lost…. The camera alone can catch the swift surfaces of the cities today and speaks a language intelligible to all.”

40th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, from Salmon Tower 11 West 42nd Street
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On the eve of the Great Depression she began a series of documentary photographs of the city that, with the support of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1939, debuted in 1939 as the traveling exhibition and publication Changing New York.

Fulton Street Dock, Manhattan skyline
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Waterfront, South Street
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West Side of Gramercy Park West, nos. 3-4, Manhattan
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Broome Street no. 512-514
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Daily News Building, 220 East 42nd Street
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Spring and Varick Streets
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South and DePeyster Streets
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Murray Hill Hotel, from Park Avenue and 40th Street
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Gus Hills Minstrels, 1890-1898 Park Avenue
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El’ station, Sixth and Ninth Avenue Lines downtown side, 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue
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Oldest apartment house in New York City, 142 East 18th Street
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Mulberry and Prince Streets
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Fish Market, South Street
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Firehouse, Park Avenue, East 135th Street, Manhattan
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Gramercy Park, nos. 3-5
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Manhattan Bridge Looking up from Bowery and Canal Street
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Washington Square North, nos. 21-25, Manhattan
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Lyric Theatre, 100 Third Avenue
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Department of Docks Building, Pier A
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Canyon Broadway and Exchange Place
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Starrett-Lehigh Building, 601 West 26th Street
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Downtown Skyport, Foot of Wall Street
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Cedar Street from William Street
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Fifth Avenue Houses, Nos. 4, 6, 8
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Broad Street looking toward Wall Street
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