Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Atget project

Ever since I was a history-of-photography-obsessed college kid, I've loved Eugene Atget's work. He took a city that was already iconic and captured a rare version of it. He brought out the ghost in a heavily civilized place. He took a loud city and made it quiet.

He was often the last person to look, really look, at entire neighborhoods before they were destroyed to make way for the new Haussmannian Paris. He would go out with his camera just after dawn, when the city was still mostly asleep, and capture a last look.

His photography was a generous act, but also a morbid one. He stripped these moments in architecture of all distractions and said, through his photographs, "Just look." And then, just as you're almost finished looking, comes the whisper: "This is already gone."

So that's the main reason I love his work. But he did this other thing that I like to. He obsessively documented groups of things. Hundreds of horse-drawn carriages, of stairways, of courtyards, and so on.

I'd like to do something way less cool, but somewhat structurally similar. As an exercise in eating, comparing, and organizing information, I'm going to choose a particular food (everything from tacos to croissants), eat a whole bunch of it from different places, and then write about it.

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