Regina Marler at the NYRB:
The celebrated photographer Berenice Abbott, who began her career as Man Ray’s darkroom assistant in Paris from 1923 to 1926 and shot her first portraits on his studio balcony, does not appear in his four-hundred-page autobiography, Self-Portrait (1963). This omission was “rather dirty,” Abbott felt, even “bitchy,” and seemed to show that Man Ray was still miffed at her early success, as Julia Van Haaften recounts in her comprehensive new biography, Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography. Abbott and Man Ray had been good friends for years, meeting soon after her arrival in New York from Ohio as a journalism student in 1918; they were so close in New York, in fact, that Man Ray had asked if she would do him the favor of being named as co-respondent in his divorce case.
She had starved in New York and was starving in Paris when Man Ray hired her for his darkroom. It was Abbott’s idea. He had complained about his latest “know-it-all” studio assistant, and Abbott jumped in: “What about me? I don’t know a thing.” Her rapid learning surprised them both. “I liked photography. Photography liked me,” she recalled.