Photography: Images from Old France

Eugène Atget's camera recorded a vanished, rural world

One of the least prominent facts of cultural life 70 years ago was that few people expected to be famous. This was especially true in the "minor" arts, like photography. Today the schools are full of chickens with Nikons whose entire professional sense turns on the thought of stardom, however temporary that blessed state may be. Though most photography is routine, the air is so sodden with "creativity" and "expression" that the idea of being a journeyman photographer seems unthinkable. Hence the difficulty of understanding...

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