Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Preview image of work. gelatin silver print,  Controlled Distortion (Self-Portrait) 11888


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Controlled Distortion (Self-Portrait)


Berenice Abbott, H 1982 (Springfield, Ohio, 1898 - 1991, Monson, Maine)


Controlled Distortion (Self-Portrait)

Creation Date



20th century


6 7/8 in. x 4 5/8 in. (17.46 cm. x 11.75 cm.)



Creation Place

North America, United States

Medium and Support

gelatin silver print

Credit Line

Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund


This artwork may be under copyright. For further information, please consult the Museum’s Copyright Terms and Conditions.

Accession Number


American Berenice Abbott moved to Paris in 1921, where she served as a darkroom assistant to Man Ray. She eventually became a master photographer in her own right, as well as an inventor of equipment such as the distortion easel, patented in 1951. Projecting the negative of a 1930 portrait onto photographic paper mounted on the flexible easel, she created distorted variations of her own likeness. Her cool self-confidence prevents a reading of the results as a statement of psychological conflict; the images instead appear to be playful experiments. Abbott was a proponent of straight photography and was firmly set against manipulation in her own creative work. The small handful of distorted self-portraits she made were created to advertise and sell the distortion easel, rather than for her own artistic self-expression.