In 2009, Magnum and Steidl published “First Color” by Inge Morath, a photography book gathering her first kodachromes. A “must have” if you like color photography.
Born in Austria in 1923, Inge Morath was the first woman to integrate the famous Magnum agency with Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson of whom she was the assistant. When properly placed back among her many photo reportages, the pictures from this book deliver a mountain of informations on photography after the war, and force us to see the color with a fresh eye.
After joining Magnum as official photographer in 1955, Inge Morath was sent around the world, covering stories in Europe, Middle East, Africa, United States and South America for magazines such as Paris Match and Vogue.
Her work is fundamentally humanist, like many photographers who covered the war and experienced the horrors of its passage through Europe.
Morath’s color work has rarely been published outside the many picture magazines for which she worked in the first decades of her career as a photojournalist. Its absence from her story, and from the larger history of photography, is the result of Morath’s own adherence to an industry-wide consensus among well intentioned photographers, curators, and historians. In their minds, color photography could not be fine art, and did not belong in museums.
This conviction did not officially change until the mid-1970s, when color photographer William Eggleston received a one-person exhibition at the MOMA in NYC.
Inge Morath’s approach of color photography is incredibly innovative. Indeed, when her colleagues and brothers used it for purely commercial, she dared to approach it in a new way: What if the color could really bring something more to a cliché, a real artistic interest? This transition required a whole new way of thinking, of seeing the world, to compose her work. By being forced to think differently, her eye discovered new forms, new games, new possibilities. The color was no longer simply a flashy tool, but a new dimension to explore.
This new approach to color brought a sea change in the acceptance of this evolution by leading photographers.
For those who love color street photography, I encourage you to get this book.
Beautifully printed, each image moves you!
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