MoMa is a fantastic place for inspiration. Steichen, Stieglitz, Lartigue, Atget are names that resonate far in the world of photography. The American system is such, that rich people donate their collection to museums as part of their estate. The Abbott-Levy Collection is one of those, named after the photographer Berenice Abbott and the art dealer Julien Levy. As an example, while working in Paris as Man Ray’s studio assistant, Berenice Abbott met Atget, and at their final visit, just months before his death, she made one of the few known portraits of him. She collected his work and donated to the museum in 1968. The photographs presented in a small room of MoMA not only carry an historical significance, but also fill the viewer with awe and admiration. Whether it is Jacques-Henri Lartigue taking pictures of wealthy people strolling down Avenue des Acacias in Paris, or Jacob August Riis showing us the back alleys of New York, such as Mulberry Bend that epitomised, according to him, “the worst of the city’s slums, or Edward Steichen immortalising the iconic Flatiron building, or Stieglitz in the smoke of steam trains. The prints are impeccable, the compositions stunning and the cumulation of them, next to each other, an everlasting source of renewed inspiration.

Avenue des Acacias, Paris, 1911 ©Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Bandits’ Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street, 1888 ©Jacob August Riis
The Flatiron, 1905 ©Edward Steichen
Marchand de Paniers (Basket Merchant), 1899-1900 ©Eugène Atget / Abbott-Levy Collection
Snapshot in the New York Central Yards, 1903 ©Alfred Stieglitz
Walter Miller photographing from Woolworth Building, 1912-1913 ©Unidentified Photographer / Collection MoMA