During her lifetime, Tina Modotti struggled to find a balance between her political and social life and her art. A central figure in the modernist photography movement, she documented the people and tumultuous politics of Mexico.
Many of her most powerful images are modern in aesthetic but political in content. Her portraits range from hired studio shots of socialites to documentation of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo at a political rally.
An extensive essay together with many of Tina Modotti’s finest images, this volume is part of the Aperture Masters of Photography Series. Available in English, French & German.
Aperture, New York, 1999, 94 pps, ill., chron., biblio., HB. ISBN 0-89381-823-2
Könemann Verlags, Cologne, 1999, 95 pps, ill., chron., biblio. ISBN 3-8290-2888-1
Mella’s typewriter, 1929
Following Weston’s departure, Modotti entered her most productive period as a photographer, running her own professional studio and creating some of her most commanding images: Mella’s typewriter, Hands resting on tool, and Worker carrying beam. Her work can be divided loosely into four categories: photographs of Mexico and Mexican folk art for leading art periodicals and her documentation of the work of renowned Mexican artists for publication in books; photojournalism for El Machete, which includes the majority of her most poignant studies of the disparities in Mexican society, together with her documentation of Communist Party rallies, reunions, and other events; her studio “bread and butter” work – professional portraits of Mexico’s rich, famous, and outrageous,
Antonieta Rivas Mercado, 1929. Mexican writer, activist and arts patron Antonieta Rivas Mercado was a leading member of an avant garde group of artists and writers.
and the images she made for pure pleasure – the sensual forms of slender lilies, the sinuous shapes of women embracing their children, and the strong abstract lines of wood scaffolding and telegraph wire.
Modotti’s home had become a hive of activity for Latin American exiles as her support for their liberation struggles grew. It was also a gathering place for Mexican artists such as Rufino Tamayo, the photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and the young Frida Kahlo. In 1928, she began living with the dynamic young Cuban revolutionary-in-exile, Julio Antonio Mella. They had been together only a few months when he was gunned down at her side on a dark Mexico City street by his political opponents.
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