Inge Morath (1923-2002)
Born in Austria in 1923, Inge Morath was raised in Nazi Germany, from which she escaped in 1945 to Vienna and then Paris. There, she collaborated with Ernst Haas and joined the leftist bohemian set of Magnum photographers in 1953, initially as an editor and then as assistant to Henry Cartier-Bresson. Inge became a full member in 1955.
Inge was one of the first women members of Magnum Photo Agency. She was a rare combination at that time: multitalented, a linguist, an intellectual, an aesthete, an excellent writer and an exacting technician. She was already an experienced editor and reporter, having worked for magazines such as Austrian title ‘Heute’, ‘Picture Post’ and ‘Life’, but she soon became known as an intrepid photographer, willing to travel widely, and deep-dive into other cultures.
Her first assignments included documenting the campaign for women’s rights under Franco in Spain. She also was commissioned to photograph in London’s Soho and Mayfair, and the resulting 1953 portrait of the aristocrat Mrs Evelyn Nash and her solemn chauffeur is from that early assignment.
One of her most memorable shots is the striking ‘A Lama in Times Square’ from 1957, but her range was broad. From the Saul Steinberg mask portraits and those of artists and stars, to the ethnographic studies of Iran and Spain of the 50s, Gaza and later China in the 70s, she captured people and places equally; with the graphic ‘Forty-Eighth Street Window Washers, NYC’ of 1958 she evoked the city as powerfully as she did Beijing twenty years later in ‘Chang An Ave., 6:30 am’.
Inge also famously photographed Marilyn Monroe and Clarke Gable on the set of 1960 film ‘The Misfits’, the last both actors appeared in before their respective deaths. Inge was one of the first photographers to arrive on set, alongside Henri Cartier Bresson. The pair enjoyed a degree of camaraderie with the actors on set, despite high tensions owing to the diminishing relationship between Marilyn and husband, writer Arthur Miller. The pair divorced the summer after the film, and Inge went on to marry Miller in 1962.
To honour her legacy, Magnum sponsors the annual Inge Morath Award, given to a woman photographer under 30. Tamara Merino is this year’s recipient.
By Paula Vellet
Also of Interest – Danube Revisited. Eight award winning women photographers and a truck took a touring exhibition of Inge Morath’s work down the Danube, following in her footsteps and creating new work along the way.