This definitive portrayal of Tina Modotti brings to life the iconic artist who throughout her life vacillated between the purity of inspired creativity and the struggle for social justice.
Incorporating extensive archival material, interviews with Modotti’s contemporaries and many rare photographs, this illustrated biography magnificently portrays Tina Modotti, her contemporaries and their tumultous times. Kraszna-Krausz Book Award Finalist and shortlisted for the prestigious Infinity Award.
Reprinted in 2017 in new English and Spanish language editions. Also available in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Polish, Turkish and Korean.
La Fábrica, Madrid / D.A.P., New York, 2017, 288pps, 130 ills, biblio, index, ISBN: 9788416248834
First Edition 1993
Tina Modotti’s life had a great trajectory and Margaret Hooks traces that arc with grace … This is a definitive biography.”
– Robin Lippincott, New York Times Review of Books
“[A] rich biography. . . . Hooks uses thorough research and previously unpublished photographs to shape a complete portrait of an intriguing woman.”
– Natalie Danford, Washington Post Book World
“The gaps and ellipses in Tina Modotti’s story have now been filled out by Margaret Hooks’s carefully researched and fascinating biography … a vivid picture of a Bohemian milieu in Mexico City in the twenties.”
– Laura Mulvey, The Guardian
“Riveting stuff about the beautiful, old-fashioned, romantic idealist whose purity of intention ruled her life… who suffered and starved, and may ultimately have died for her ideals.”
– Leslie Cunliffe, VOGUE
“A thorougly documented biography of a woman whose artistic reputation has in recent years enjoyed such an enthusiastic revival … generously illustrated with excellent reproductions of Modotti’s photographs as well as Weston’s famous images of her.”
– Joan Smith, San Francisco Examiner
An old, rat-infested cargo ship that creaked and groaned in the water, the S.S. Edam was embarking on its thirty-fourth Transatlantic return voyage under the command of a Dutch captain named Jochems. Tina and her two fellow deportees, Johann Windisch and Isaak Abramovich Rosenblum, were booked into third-class cabins. Right away she was disheartened to learn that the journey would take six weeks. Worse still, she was not travelling as a normal passenger, but as a virtual prisoner to be `strictly watched in all ports and not allowed to touch shore …’
The boat chugged north along Mexico’s Gulf coast and docked first at the steamy port of Tampico, where another passenger got on board. He carried the passport of Jacobo Hurwitz Zender, the exiled Peruvian journalist Tina had known well in Mexico.
But the man who boarded the Edam was not Hurwitz. It was another young man, stockily built, with coarse features and a receding hairline, who should have been immediately recognisable to Tina. Had he not been so well disguised, she would have known right away that it was in fact her Communist mentor and fellow Italian Vittorio Vidali.
There had been little time for Vittorio to contact Tina in Mexico City following her release from prison. In any case, it would have been dangerous because of her round-the-clock police escort. It is even feasible that Tina had been imprisoned in order to lure Vidali; an important and dangerous Soviet agent, the police might have thought they could trap him, had he attempted to contact or see her.
Vidali later explained his appearance on the Edam: `Just when I was about to flee, the Party called me [and] told me, “Look, take Tina … we are terribly afraid they’ll take her to Italy ..”‘ Even before leaving Mexico City he had informed Moscow of the plan: `The messages had reached their destination and they assured me that there would be no difficulty in disembarking in Holland and in crossing the border by train en route to Berlin.’
Tina was well-liked and treated kindly by the Edam’s crew and passengers. Despite her condition as a virtual prisoner, she was given a pleasant cabin, and could eat with the other passengers and walk about the boat as much as she pleased.
In the long hours aboard ship, she talked to Vittorio at length about her past and about her plans for the future. She brought out her Graflex to make photographs, including one of him at the ship’s railing, and she surprised him with how much she wrote and read during the voyage.
In the letters she wrote to Weston during her journey, she wryly described her recent experiences:
“I hope Edward, that you got a good laugh when you heard I was accused of participating in the plan to shoot Ortiz Rubio — “who would have though it eh? Such a gentle looking girl who made such nice photographs of flowers and babies … all kinds of proofs, documents, arms and what not, were found in my house; in other words everything was ready to shoot Ortiz Rubio and unfortunately, I did not calculate very well and the other guy got ahead of me … this is the story which the Mexican public has swallowed with their morning coffee, so can you blame their sighs of relief in knowing that the fierce and bloody Tina Modotti has at last left for ever the Mexican shores?” …
Copyright © 2021 The Estate of Margaret Hooks.
Copyright © 2021 The Estate of Margaret Hooks.
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