Bundles of newspaper, sacks of rags, and scattered miscellaneous debris at the foot of this ramshackle flight of stairs indicate that this is the domain of a middleman in the junk trade. Over the interior doorway, a neatly lettered sign provides prices for various kinds of scrap, including glass, mixed paper, and iron.
In a 1920 letter to the director of the École des Beaux-Arts, period staircases were among the many images that Eugène Atget listed in his collection of prints. Apparently, Atget felt that the subject was of historical interest and should therefore be documented. When creating images, Atget was primarily concerned with recording subjects--including architecture--that he felt were disappearing from Parisian life and culture. The decay illustrated here clearly showed that this carved wood staircase was not going to endure.