For whatever reason I’ve been sort of not super jazzed up on fashion lately? Maybe it’s winter blues (no snow but I still have to wear tights and 47 layers every day!? what is this!?) or maybe it’s that I’ve been busy with 18 other projects — but the good ole “fashion blogging universe” has just sort of been not keeping my attention super well this past month or so.
But! Let’s not be depressing! So instead of talking about my irritation at this (lies, I’ll just talk about it parenthetically! check it out! a bunch of old white dudes and a few token black guys and a lady or two! how interesting! and by interesting I mean “god how depressing is everything ever” but ANYHOW) let’s feel enthusiastic about lady photographers and how much I love New York, right?! As if I don’t post about these things enough! But these people seem obvious to me but maybe you have not encountered them before, so. Berenice Abbott!
Berenice Abbott’s “Changing New York" — her exhaustive collection of photos of New York in the 1930’s, the archives of which now live over at the NYPL — is awesome for all of the reasons we always love photos of New York in ages past, right? It’s part “Oh snap! That’s the Starrett Lehigh building! Once I totally bombed an interview at a studio there!” and part fascination at the things we don’t recognize; something both familiar and bittersweet about the things that are both the same despite the things that are different, like the persistent stark contrast of poverty and wealth, of new and old, that seems in so many ways to define this city.
There’s also the fact that while Abbott was known primarily for her photographs of New York (and a bunch of boring science stuff, like photographing balls in motion yaawwwwnnnn) those of us in on the joke can deduce pretty quickly what “lived with Djuna Barnes in the Village for a while” probably means. (Unsurprisingly, some of her photos are in that Hide/Seek show at the Brooklyn Museum that I still haven’t gone to because I suck but I’m going Thursday I swear!) Abbott’s portraits — of herself, of Barnes, Janet Flanner, Gertrude Stein, Edna St Vincent Millay, Betty Parsons, and more — can be read also as a not-so-subtle but still-unspoken record of queer identities in her era in New York and Paris. Cool!