Eugène Atget (February 12, 1857 – August 4, 1927) was a French pioneer of documentary photography, noted for his determination to document all of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization.
He became obsessed with making what he modestly called “documents” of the city and its environs, and compiling a visual compendium of the architecture, landscape, and artifacts that distinguish French culture and its history. Except for a brief attempt to capture life in the streets early in his career, Atget rarely photographed people, preferring the streets themselves as well as the gardens, courtyards, and other areas that constituted the cultural stage.
By the end of his life, Atget had amassed an archive of over 8,000 negatives, which he organized into such categories as Parisian Interiors, Vehicles in Paris, and Petits Métiers (trades and professions). While his principle clientele would change, Atget continued to frequent artists’ ateliers and cafés until the end of his life, selling his pictures to those most able to see their intrinsic worth.