On View: The Extraordinary Lives and Work of Martine Franck and Inge Morath

By David Schonauer   Wednesday December 19, 2018

“Martine, I want to come and see your contact sheets.”

That was what Henri Cartier-Bresson said when he first met Martin Franck in 1966. The two were married in 1970 (despite a 30-year age difference) and shared a passion for photography. But Franck’s own career as a photographer was overshadowed by that of her husband, one of the founders of the Magnum photo collective. Franck admits she put her husband’s career ahead of her own. It wasn’t always easy.

“A painful example comes from the year in which they were married, when the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London sent out invitations to what was to be Franck’s first solo exhibition which highlighted her husband’s name and his presence at the launch. She promptly cancelled the show,” notes AnOther.

Now an exhibition at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (through Feb. 10, 2019) shines an overdue spotlight on Franck’s work. The retrospective of 140 images serves also as a debut for the Fondation’s new and expanded space in Paris’s Marais district.

Meanwhile, the work and extraordinary life of pioneering Magnum photographer Inge Morath is celebrated in the new book Inge Morath: An Illustrated Biography. As AnOther notes in a separate article, Austrian-born Morath arrived at photography after establishing herself as a journalist, translator and editor, first at a publication where she worked closely with photographer Ernst Haas and, in 1949, at the newly founded Magnum Photos agency. She learned photography from the likes of Cartier-Bresson and another Magnum co-founder, David Seymour. Eventually she became widely known for her travel, portrait and fashion photography, as well as for her work on sets of television and films — most notably John Huston’s The Misfits, which was written by Arthur Miller and starred Miller’s then-wife, Marilyn Monroe.

Today we celebrate the work of both women.

“Martine Franck: A Retrospective”

Martine Franck photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1972

“Taking a portrait of someone,” Martine Franck once noted, “starts with a conversation.” Born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1938, Franck studied art history at the University of Madrid, before making her way to Paris, where she began assisting photographers Eliot Elisofon and Gjon Mili at Life magazine. She went on to photograph for Vogue, The New York Times and other publications, and by 1983 she was one of the only women to join the Magnum photo agency.

“Franck preferred to work outside a studio, walking the streets and exploring different countries with a 35-millimeter Leica camera clutched in one hand. Filled with her signature black and white film, its spare contrasts left no shadow and no shape unturned,” notes AnOther.

“In one of her most famous pictures, dynamic forms are created by a group lounging by a swimming pool in 1976 Le Brusc,” notes AnOther. “The long lines of a tanned body are cradled by a hammock’s criss-cross white netting, the shadow of both like a reflection perfectly replicated on the tiles below. Everything seems calculated down to the crook of white negative space in the arm’s triangular arc as it props up a tired head.”

Swimming pool, Le Brusc, summer 1976

Ballymun, North Dublin, Ireland, 1993

Foyer of the Salvation Army, New York, 1979

Franck had a gift for capturing natural, unexpected compositions, notes AnOther. As she declared, a photograph is “a fleeting, subjective impression.”

Shechen monastry, Bodnath, Nepal, 1966

Led by François Hébel and the artistic director Agnès Sire, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson's new location is closer to institutions such as the Centre Pompidou and the Musée Picasso. Now twice the size, it has gallery spaces for Cartier-Bresson’s work and temporary exhibitions on the ground floor, notes The Art Newspaper.

Inge Morath: An Ilustrated Biography

Morath during the filming ofThe Journey, 1959. Photo by Yul Brynner

As a teenager, Morath lived in Germany under the Nazis. Ironically, she discovered avant-garde art at an exhibition arranged by the Nazi Party with the intention of turning the German public against modern art.

After the war she made her way to her native Austria. She later recalled that “everyone was dead, or half dead. I walked by dead horses, by women with dead babies in their arms.” During her 50-year career as a journalist and photographer, Morath made a point of never covering war, notes AnOther.

On the road to Reno, outside Memphis, 1960

A llama in Times Square, New York, 1957

Soldiers on Yuan Dynasty Sculpture, near Hangzhou, China, 1978

By 1955, photographer Morath was one of the first female photographers at Magnum Photos. “Morath’s immense body of work has life at its center,” notes AnOther. “The photographer travelled around the world with her camera – she made the people and places of Spain, London, Paris, New York, Iran, China, the USSR, Italy, Tehran and others her subject over the course of many years. Her work is marked by a distinct sense of empathy; having learned many different languages and immersed herself in different countries following her youth in Germany, she conducted her photography with a warmth for and deep-rooted interest in what she was looking at.”

Marilyn Monroe during the filming of The Misfits, Reno, Nevada, 1960

An example of her empathy can be see in her extraordinarily intimate photographers of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits. The unlikely marriage between the playwright and film star was nearing its end, and Morath’s images offer an insight into the life, both real and perceived, of Monroe at that time, notes AnOther.

“But this intimacy was twofold: Morath and Miller married in February 1962, and remained together until her death in 2002,” notes the website.

“Being one of the then rather rare women photographers… was often difficult for the simple reason that nobody felt one was serious,” Morath once said. The new book, written by the historian Linda Gordon, makes the case for Morath as a photographer of calm distinction, notes The Guardian.
At top: Ernst Haas and Morath, Capri, Italowny, 1949, photographer unknown


  1. Bradley Patrick commented on: December 20, 2018 at 5:28 p.m.
    Another wonderful photographer. I hope to see more of her work in many galleries for years to come. Inspiring lady.

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