Prudence Peiffer is an art historian and senior editor at Artforum.


Berenice Abbott: Rebels of Paris

Jean Cocteau (French, 1889-1963)

The photographs in Berenice Abbott’s Paris Portraits 1925-1930 document how international the community of modernists was between the wars, and are evidence of Abbott’s first experiments with lighting, angles, and equipment. The portraits’ sparseness only amplifies the ambition they contain—of both subjects and photographer. One of the pleasures of a great portrait is the unending present exposure it offers us, as if the sitter is just about to reveal something. Abbott’s client list is dizzying.