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Coffee Talks with Nan Colton: Berenice Abbott

After almost 60 years in photography, Berenice Abbott claims her rightful place as one of the greatest of American photographers. She has always been a proponent of realism, a tireless and uncompromising advocate for the documentary approach to photography. She wrote, “We should take hold of that very quality (realism), make use of it, and explore it to the fullest.” Abbott worked from 1925 to 1929 as a photographic assistant to May Ray in Paris. Through her work printing Man Ray’s photographs, Abbott herself discovered her talent as a photographer. It was Atget who influenced the next phase of Abbott’s career: documenting New York City in the 1930s. New York had experienced a building boom of skyscrapers in the 20s and Abbott was struck by “the past jostling the present” as she took in New York’s cityscapes.

As the Depression deepened, Abbott needed to earn a living and few people could afford to have their portraits taken. She began teaching photography at the New School for Social Research. Abbott finally found employment with the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1935 to 1938 to document the rapidly changing urban scene.

In the last important phase of her career, Abbott did pioneering work at M.I.T. in the photography of scientific phenomenon. She was granted patents on a number of inventions for photographic equipment. The presentation starts when Berenice decides to leave New York City after living there for more than 30 years and move to Maine.

This month’s program is entitled: Berenice Abbott: Master Image Maker 

This performance will take place live in the Marly room at the MFA. To ensure the health and safety of our visitors and staff, face masks are recommended while inside the museum at all times. We’re delighted to announce that coffee and cookies are back for Coffee Talks along with post-Coffee Talk docent tours with Anne Shamas; in June Coffee Talk she will tour guests through Women’s Work: A Survey of Female Photographers exhibition.

  • 10 am – 10:30 am Refreshments service begins in the Membership Garden
  • 10:30 am – 11 am Coffee Talk presentation
  • 11 am Q&A
  • Immediately after Q&A ends – Docent Tour: meet in the Great Hall


FREE for MFA members; Not-yet members are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors. 

Please note: Due to the uncertainties related to COVID-19, this event is subject to change.

Made Possible By:

AARP Florida | Sponsor | Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg


The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is a nonprofit organization that fosters a vibrant community through education, engagement, and public service. Your participation in this event helps to support the museum, our exhibitions, and programs. Here are a few ways you can support the MFA today:

Event Details

June 8, 2022

10–11:30 am

Event Categories

Marly Room: Museum of Fine Arts

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