Berenice Abbott came from Springfield, Ohio and spent 2 semesters at Ohio State University. In 1918, Berenice left college to study sculpting for the next 2 years in Berlin, Germany and Paris, France.
The Berlin school that she went to was Prussian Academy of Arts and the Paris school she went to was Académie de la Grande Chaumiere. This was when she started spelling her name as “Berenice,” which is the way it’s spelled in French.
In 1923, Berenice became interested in photography and was hired by Man Ray to work as his assistant in the darkroom at a portrait studio that he ran in an area of Paris called Montparnasse. After she started getting into photography, she never stopped.
Berenice got the opportunity to visit New York City in 1929. She found there to be so many beautiful buildings to photograph that she wanted to move there. So, she went back to Paris to shut down her photography studio and then moved to New York.
Portrait of Berenice Abbott, by Man Ray in 1925:
While there, she took photographs of many neighborhoods and buildings in Manhattan. Some of those buildings are now destroyed, which makes their photographs a great historical reference.
In 1935, Berenice got a job as a project supervisor with the Federal Art Project. Her job was to supervise the project entitled “Changing New York.” She did this photography project for 4 years and ended up with 305 professional photographs which are now the property of the Museum of the City of New York.
Berenice lived in a loft in Greenwich Village with a critic of art named Elizabeth McCausland. She stayed there from 1935 until 1965, which was when Elizabeth died. Many photographers consider Berenice’s photograph collection of New York City to be one of the best ever produced.
Berenice Abbott was taken by Hank O’Neal at his Downtown Sound Studio in New York City, 18 November 1979: