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Willy Ronis
Willy Ronis

Willy Ronis

Country: France
Birth: 1910 | Death: 2009

Willy Ronis was a French photographer best known for his photographs of life in postwar Paris and Provence, who spent his career roaming the Parisian streets capturing people in love, at work, and at play in lyrical black-and-white images, claimed an interest in "ordinary people with ordinary lives." He was a central figure in the "humanist photography" movement, alongside colleagues Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and George Brassaï, celebrating the poetry in the everyday in warm, witty images.

I have never sought out the extraordinary or the scoop. I looked for what complemented my life. The beauty of the ordinary was always the source of my greatest emotions.

-- Willy Ronis


Working in his parents' photography studio, Willy Ronis honed his sense of proportion and composition. Ronis was born in Paris; his father was a Jewish refugee from Odessa, and his mother was a Lithuanian refugee who had fled the pogroms. His father established a photography studio in Montmartre, and his mother taught piano. The boy's first love was music, and he aspired to be a composer.

When Ronis returned from military service in 1932, his violin studies were put on hold because his father's cancer forced him to take over the family portrait business; His love of music can be seen in his photographs. When his father died in 1936, the business collapsed, and Ronis went freelance, with his first photographs appearing in Regards.

Willy Ronis met David Szymin and Robert Capa in 1937 and did his first work for Plaisir de France; in 1938-39, he reported on a Citroen strike and traveled in the Balkans. Ronis, like Cartier-Bresson, was a member of the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires and remained a leftist.

Ronis was inspired to start exploring photography by the work of photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams. After his father died in 1936, he closed the studio and joined the photo agency Rapho, where he worked alongside Brassaï, Robert Doisneau, and Ergy Landau.

Most of my photographs were taken on the spur of the moment, very quickly, just as they occurred. All attention focuses on the specific instant, almost too good to be true, which can only vanish in the following one.

-- Willy Ronis


Willy Ronis was the first French photographer to work for Life magazine. In 1953, Edward Steichen curated a show at the Museum of Modern Art called Five French Photographers, which featured Ronis, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Izis, and Brassaï.

He was also featured in the Family of Man exhibition in 1955, and received in 1957 the Gold Medal from the Venice Biennale. Ronis began teaching at the School of Fine Arts in Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and Saint Charles, Marseilles in the 1950s. The Minister of Culture awarded him the Grand Prix des Arts et Lettres for Photography in 1979. In 1981, Ronis won the Prix Nadar for his photobook Sur le fil du hasard.

Marie-Anne Lansiaux (1910-91), a Communist militant painter, was the subject of Ronis' well-known 1949 photograph, Nu provençal (Provençal naked). The photograph, which was taken in a house that Marie-Anne and he had just purchased in Gordes, showed Marie-Anne washing at a basin with a water pitcher on the floor and an open window through which the viewer can see a garden; it is notable for its ability to convey an easy feeling of Provençal life. "The destiny of this image, published constantly around the world, still astonishes me," Ronis said of the photograph. Ronis spent the 1960s and 1980s in Provence and photographed Marie-Anne, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease at the time, sitting alone in a park surrounded by autumn trees.
 

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Tina Modotti
Italy / United States
1896 | † 1942
With her camera, Tina Modotti presents a distinctive vision of 1920s Mexico. As a Hollywood actress turned Comintern agent, Modotti used photography as an artistic and political outlet. Born​ in Udine,Italy,​ ​Modotti emigrated to San Fransico at the age of sixteen. She quickly established herself as a successful actress and modeled for notable photographers including Jane Reece and Edward Weston. The latter became her lover and artistic mentor. In 1923, Weston and Modotti set up a successful portrait studio in Mexico City. While there, Modotti moved within avant-garde circles, befriending Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It was during this period in Mexico that she developed her passion for both photography and politics; this culminated in a solo exhibition at the National Library in 1929 which emphasized the revolutionary quality of her work. A year later Modotti was exiled from Mexico because of anti-communist sentiments and in 1931 she set aside a promising career in photography to devote herself entirely to political activism. She worked as a Comintern agent until her death in 1942. Although her life and photographic style are often linked with Edward Westo​n, her political engagement and the eye for composition she harnessed to express it are her own. Calla Lilies (1925) represents a cool appraisal of natural beauty and shows Modotti’s interest in formalism, something she shared with Weston, as she emphasizes the stark lighting, the near symmetry, and the tactile presence of the flowers. In Workers Parade (1926), however, while Modotti’s skill in formal composition is still evident, as the lighting and angle emphasize the repeated pattern of the hats, this dramatic view of a May Day parade in Mexico City reveals Modotti’s Communist sympathies and her ambition to use photography to promote political change.Source: Hundred Heroines Tina Modotti was an Italian American photographer, model, actor, and revolutionary political activist for the Comintern. She left Italy in 1913 and moved to the USA, where she worked as a model and subsequently as a photographer. In 1922 she moved to Mexico, where she became an active Communist. Modotti was born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini in Udine, Friuli, Italy. Her mother, Assunta, was a seamstress; her father, Giuseppe, was a mason. In 1913, at the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States to join her father in San Francisco, California. Attracted to the performing arts supported by the Italian émigré community in the San Francisco Bay Area, Modotti experimented with acting. She appeared in several plays, operas, and silent movies in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and also worked as an artist's model. In 1917, she met Roubaix "Robo" de l'Abrie Richey. Originally a farm boy from Oregon named Ruby Ritchie, the artist and poet assumed the more bohemian name Roubaix. In 1918, Modotti began a romantic relationship with him and moved with him to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the motion picture industry. Although the couple cohabited and lived as a "married couple", they were not married. She was listed as a U.S. citizen in the 1920 Los Angeles township census. Often playing the femme fatale, Modotti's movie career culminated in the 1920 film The Tiger's Coat. She had minor parts in two other films. The couple entered into a bohemian circle of friends. One of these fellow bohemians was Ricardo Gómez Robelo. Another was the photographer, Edward Weston. As a young girl in Italy her uncle, Pietro Modotti, maintained a photography studio. Later in the U.S., her father briefly ran a similar studio in San Francisco. While in Los Angeles, she met the photographer Edward Weston and his creative partner Margrethe Mather. It was through her relationship with Weston that Modotti developed as an important fine art photographer and documentarian. By 1921, Modotti was Weston's lover. Ricardo Gómez Robelo became the head of Mexico's Ministry of Education's Fine Arts Department, and persuaded Robo to come to Mexico with a promise of a job and a studio. Robo left for Mexico in December 1921. Perhaps unaware of his affair with Modotti, Robo took with him prints of Weston's, hoping to mount an exhibition of his and Weston's work in Mexico. While she was on her way to be with Robo, Modotti received word of his death from smallpox on February 9, 1922. Devastated, she arrived two days after his death. In March 1922, determined to see Robo's vision realized, she mounted a two-week exhibition of Robo's and Weston's work at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City. She sustained a second loss with the death of her father, which forced her to return to San Francisco later in March 1922. In 1923, Modotti returned to Mexico City with Weston and his son Chandler, leaving behind Weston's wife Flora and their youngest three children. She agreed to run Weston's studio free of charge in return for his mentoring her in photography. Together they opened a portrait studio in Mexico City. Modotti and Weston quickly gravitated toward the capital's bohemian scene and used their connections to create an expanding portrait business. Together they found a community of cultural and political "avant-gardists", which included Frida Kahlo, Lupe Marín, Diego Rivera, and Jean Charlot. In general, Weston was moved by the landscape and folk art of Mexico to create abstract works, while Modotti was more captivated by the people of Mexico and blended this human interest with a modernist aesthetic. Modotti also became the photographer of choice for the blossoming Mexican mural movement, documenting the works of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Between 1924 and 1928, Modotti took hundreds of photographs of Rivera's murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City. Modotti's visual vocabulary matured during this period, such as her formal experiments with architectural interiors, blooming flowers, urban landscapes, and especially in her many beautiful images of peasants and workers during the depression. In 1926, Modotti and Weston were commissioned by Anita Brenner to travel around Mexico and take photographs for what would become her influential book Idols Behind Altars. The relative contributions of Modotti and Weston to the project has been debated. Weston's son Brett, who accompanied the two on the project, indicated that the photographs were taken by Edward Weston. In 1925, Modotti joined International Red Aid, a Communist organization. In November 1926, Weston left Mexico and returned to California. During this time Modotti met several political radicals and Communists, including three Mexican Communist Party leaders who would all eventually become romantically linked with her: Xavier Guerrero, Julio Antonio Mella, and Vittorio Vidali. Starting in 1927, a much more politically active Modotti (she joined the Mexican Communist Party that year) found her focus shifting and more of her work becoming politically motivated. Around that time her photographs began appearing in publications such as Mexican Folkways, Forma, and the more radically motivated El Machete, the German Communist Party's Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (AIZ), and New Masses. Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo divided Modotti's career as a photographer into two distinct categories: "Romantic" and "Revolutionary", with the former period including her time spent as Weston's darkroom assistant, office manager and, finally, creative partner. Her later works were the focus of her one-woman retrospective exhibition at the National Library in December 1929, which was advertised as "The First Revolutionary Photographic Exhibition In Mexico". As a result of the anti-communist campaign by the Mexican government, Modotti was exiled from Mexico in 1930. She first spent several months in Berlin, followed by several years in Moscow. Traveling on a restricted visa that mandated her final destination as Italy, Modotti initially stopped in Berlin and from there visited Switzerland. The Italian government made concerted efforts to extradite her as a subversive national, but with the assistance of International Red Aid activists, she evaded detention by the fascist police. She apparently intended to make her way into Italy to join the anti-fascist resistance there. In response to the deteriorating political situation in Germany and her own exhausted resources, however, she followed the advice of Vittorio Vidali and moved to Moscow in 1931. After 1931, Modotti no longer photographed. Reports of later photographs are unsubstantiated. During the next few years she engaged in various missions on behalf of the Workers International Relief organizations as a Comintern agent in Europe. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, Vidali (then known as "Comandante Carlos") and Modotti (using the pseudonym "Maria") left Moscow for Spain, where they stayed and worked until 1939. She worked with Canadian Dr. Norman Bethune during the disastrous retreat from Málaga in 1937. In 1939, following the collapse of the Republican movement in Spain, Modotti left Spain with Vidali and returned to Mexico under a pseudonym. In 1942, at the age of 45, Modotti died from heart failure while on her way home in a taxi from a dinner at Hannes Meyer's home in Mexico City, under what are viewed by some as suspicious circumstances. After hearing about her death, Diego Rivera suggested that Vidali had orchestrated it. Modotti may have "known too much" about Vidali's activities in Spain, which included a rumoured 400 executions. An autopsy showed that she died of natural causes, namely congestive heart failure. Her grave is located within the vast Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City. Source: Wikipedia
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United States
1975
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Evgenia Arbugaeva (born 1985) is a photographer of the Russian Arctic. Having grown up in Yakutsk, she has an empathy with the people living in the far north and the difficult living conditions they experience, and several of her photographic projects have involved them. The National Geographic has funded her to photograph the people and economic changes on Russia's northern coast. Arbugaeva was born in Tiksi, a small port town of the Sakha Republic on the Arctic Sea, near the mouth of the Lena River. As part of the Soviet Union, Tiksi supported military airfields and became the world's most northern settlement with over 5000 people. Her memories of the place include pink mountains, whiteout snowstorms in which she lost all sense of place, fields of snow colored green or gold by the surrounding light, and auroras in the endless night of winter. One of her childhood heroes was explorer Jacques Cousteau. At the age of eight, and at the fall of the Soviet Union, she and her family moved to Yakutsk, "the coldest city on earth" and a place that she found much less visually appealing. She studied management in Moscow before moving to New York City. There, she studied photography at the International Center of Photography, graduating in 2009. 19 years after moving from her hometown, Arbugaeva decided to move back to Tiksi because she could no longer remember anything from the town. These memories had faded so much to the point where they seemed unreal. Arbugaeva's photographic method involves living with her subjects on a long enough term to become friends with them and for them to relax in front of her camera. For instance, in one of her projects she traveled with Siberian hunters for the tusks of mammoths, newly exposed by global warming. She won the trust of the hunters by stitching up the injured hand of the head of the group. She often works without a camera, scouting locations that she returns to frequently until the lighting and inspiration combine to give her a photo. In 2010 Arbugaeva returned to Tiksi, now becoming a ghost town, on a personal visit to compare it to her memories, but left the town with only one photo she liked, of a teenage girl playing on the seashore. Inspired by the photo, she traveled back to Tiksi in 2011 to meet the girl and her family and to document their daily life, overlain with her own memories. Despite the decline of the town and the difficult life there (which drove her host family to plan their own departure), her photos in this project are "bright and whimsical, their compositions and vivid colours redolent of the books she read there as a child". Arbugaeva learned of the weather stations of northern Russia in a dog sledding incident, when she and her father had to take shelter from bad weather at one of the stations. In her project Weather Man, she took a two-month passage on an icebreaker to 22 of the stations, including the station at Khodovarikha, where she met meteorologist Vyacheslav (Slava) Korotki. The portrait taken of Vyacheslav Korotki is an intimate story of an individualistic man, who is facing the fading winter of the Arctic. In early 2014, she returned to Khodovarikha by helicopter for a two-and-a-half-week visit and photography session with Korotki. Based on this work, a much darker series of photos than the ones from Tiksi, she published a profile of Korotki in The New Yorker. Arbugaeva's other photography projects have included nomadic Yakut reindeer herders in Sakha, and Amani, a sequence of fictionalized images set on an abandoned anthropological research station on a former German coffee plantation in Tanzania. Arbugaeva is the 2013 winner of Leica's Oskar Barnack Award for her work in Tiksi, for which she also received a Magnum Foundation International Emergency Fund grant in 2012. In 2018, National Geographic named her as one of their four inaugural Media Innovation Fellows, funding her to photograph the people and economic changes on Russia's northern coast.Source: Wikipedia
Denis Olivier
France
1969
My first encounter with photography took place when my parents performed some strange static dances with an object in front of their face. Later they would close themselves up in a special room under the house for long periods of time, and no one was allowed in. They diligently made sure that they were left to their own devices while inside. One day I was given permission to enter the room and allowed to stay, but on the condition that I didn't move or went out. I remember there was a unique chemical perfume and a red light. I was bewildered: my parents appeared flashing a white light on a piece of paper using a strange apparatus. Then they dipped it into a clear liquid and Behold! I couldn't believe it, A miracle! They were wizards who created pictures. In the following years I didn't really follow his experiments, I was too young to manipulate cameras and I preferred to draw. Photography, Architecture and Art was always present around us and I still remember the black and white exhibitions that we visited. When I was a teenager, I continued to draw and started to paint a little. I even took part in some local exhibitions. At the age of 17 I began to take some photographs, I was especially fascinated by mineralogical micro mounts. I started studying biochemistry, but after 3 years I changed to Poitiers school of fine-arts, and took an interest in computer graphics and generated imagery. While I was there I meet Alain Fleig who introduced me to art photography. I also felt a need to practice photography, and with a friend we spent a lot of time learning how to develop films and photographs. We did sessions with models, scenery, and discovered France. The second year I had my first personal exhibition in a gallery, which was a great experience, then a training placement with Philippe Salaün, who was at this time Robert Doisneau's developer. Following this I did some jobs for organizations, shows and commissioned works. I then started in December 1995 working with computer graphics and made use of the Internet. I worked in artistic direction for several years, then digital cameras came along and I found a way to work quickly and experiment without using too many resources such as film, chemicals, photo sensitive paper and of course the wonderful resource of water.
Mohammad Sorkhabi
Mohammad Sorkhabi was born in Mashhad-Iran in 1985. He has been engaged in portrait photography since 2013. Most of his artworks are inspired by Renascence and Baroque portrait paintings so he mostly uses the classical lighting techniques and pictorial editing of the works with a subtle expression-filled by emotions and poetic feelings that indicate social issues. Mood Photography is the style of Mohammad which makes the audience communicate with the poetic feeling of his art better. His portraits emphasizing on social issues through deep abstract feelings and delicate expressions in the eyes of his models. Awards: Fine Art's first reward in Canada Tirgan Festival-2015. Two artworks of him have been chosen for the final section and have been displayed in Malaysia-Kuala Lumpur portrait contest-2015. Also second and third place in beauty and portrait category and four honorable mention in Moscow photo awards(MIFA)-2015. Winning medal in Asahi Shimbun photo contest, Japan 2017 Mourning for the father War is defined as a long-term structured conflict involving the use of arms and weapons between nations, governments and different groups, which is associated with severe hostility, social disruption, and excessive financial loss and casualties. Today, we constantly witness such conflicts across the world, with the media spotlighting the loss of thousands of soldiers and death of civilians during wars. However, we are rarely informed on the survivors of wars and their destiny. What becomes of them? How does war influence the lives of those who have lost their loved ones? How do women mourn the deaths of their husbands, fathers, and brothers and cope with such grave tragedies? These contemplations have urged me to start a project in order to shed light on these events and reflect the grand suffering of war survivors only partly. My photographs have been inspired by the works of Renaissance painters, and this can be seen in the classical lighting techniques and pictorial editing of the works. In addition, the black veils on the models signify the spiritual aspect of the photographs, symbolizing the catharsis born out of a plethora of grief and agony.
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