Born in Ohio, photographer Bernice Abbott (1898-1991) dedicated her life to capturing with her camera the ever-changing and renewing beauty of human ingenuity and creativity.
At 20, she added an "e" to her first name to become the unique "Berenice" and borrowed $20 for a train ticket to New York City to "experiment with sculpture." Three years later, she bought a one-way ticket to Paris where she studied with photographer Man Ray and established her own successful portrait studio.
"Photography helps people to see," she once explained about her craft. "Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself."
In Paris, she discovered the photography of Jean-Eugene-Auguste Atget, a pioneer in historic documentation. Atget inspired her to return to New York in 1929 to photograph the vibrant life of the city which was in transition.
"All photography is documentary by Nature," she once explained. "Good photographs are documentary--they can't escape it."
She published Changing New York (1939), then spent the next two decades focusing on scientific photography because, she explained, "we live in a scientific age and I thought that photography should do something about it."
Marked by the spirit of independence, she constantly emphasized that every person had a need and the ability to be creative. "I took to photography like a duck to water," she said about her vocation.
"I never wanted to do anything else. Excitement about the subject is the voltage which pushes me over the mountain of drudgery necessary to produce the final photograph."
Observe life with relentless fidelity.