The turn-of-the-century French photographer, Eugène Atget, is famous for his photographs of Old Paris. Atget was a historian as well as an artist; working for institutions such as the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliotèque historique de la ville de Paris, he documented the facades and architectural details of old buildings before they were demolished to make way for modern ones. Atget often took his pictures early in the morning in order to avoid the crowd. As a result, many of his deserted street scenes have a dreamlike quality, despite his straightforward, no-frills style.
Today, we associate Eugène Atget’s name with black-and-white images of buildings, alleyways, storefronts and street corners. Less well-known—but equally fascinating—are his photographs of the people who worked and lived in Paris at the turn of the century. For the most part, Atget was interested in the less well-to-do members of society, and took pictures of gypsies, prostitutes and street merchants. These portraits, even more than his urban landscapes, send us flying back through time, back to the days when mustachioed bakers really did walk around in striped shirts and berets, with long baguettes tucked under their arms.
Take a look at our slideshow of Eugène Atget’s “untapped” photographs and get to know some of the merchants—bakers, flower girls, musicians, umbrella vendors, window cleaners, hurdy gurdy men and more—who hawked and traded on the streets of Paris more than 100 years ago.