Friday, March 12, 2010

Inge Morath



Picture copyright: Magnum Photos

I came across Inge Morath’s legendary photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the sets of Arthur Miller’s The Misfits in a photo exhibition Leica, the great camera-making company, brought to Mumbai a few years ago. That exhibition also had some images from Henri Cartier Bresson, who always used a Leica 35mm camera for all his pictures. Two images - Morath’s Monroe, and Bresson’s painting like portrait of Kashmiri women dressed in traditional clothes on a hill top at the crack of first light – remained etched in my memory.

Like Cartier-Bresson, Inge Morath has also captured some of the leading global thinkers, poets, artists, writers, film-makers and film stars in portraits. Born in Austria in 1923, she completed her studies in Berlin, and became first a translator and then a journalist. A friend of photographer Ernst Haas, she wrote articles accompanying his photographs. It was Robert Capa who invited Morath to join Magnum Photo agency as an editor. She began photographing in 1951, and later assisted Cartier-Bresson as a researcher for two years. In 1955, she became a full Magnum member.

Morath travelled extensively and worked for a number of world’s leading magazines. She shot photographs on the sets of John Houston films. Her photographs of Marilyn Monroe on the sets of Houston’s 1961 film The Misfits (which was scripted by playwright-writer Arthur Miller) brought her instant fame. In 1962, she married Miller. Her initial work is black and white, but she continued shooting in colour right up to 2002, when she passed away.


Thanks to the wonderful re-design by Magnum Photos recently, about 12 different features of Morath’s work are now available for us to see on their website. Apart from portraits of Houston and Miller, her camera has captured painters like Pablo Picasso, Francoise Gilot, writers Francois Sagan, John Updike, Anais Nin and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, playwright Harold Pinter, fashion legend Yves St Laurent, French couturier Pierre Cardin among others.

Apart from the Marilyn Monroe series, Morath has captured pictures of Hollywood legends like Yul Brynner, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Houston, Ingrid Bergman, Elia Kazan, Dustin Hoffman (who starred in Miller’s Death of a Salesman), Liam Neeson (who acted in Miller’s play The Crucible in 2002). There is also a beautiful portrait of Anthony Quinn shot in 1959 at a café. Quinn’s two companions can’t get their eyes of the star!

Since her death in 2002, Magnum Photos gives away the Inge Morath award for women photographers below the age of 30 who want to work on a long term documentary photography project. Please also check the work of Olivia Arthur , the 2008 award winner.

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