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Lisette Model

Text from Michael Frizot, A New History of Photography

"Lisette Model was not only a contemporary of Weegee's in New York in the 1940s, but a cohort who used to hang out with him at a dive called Sammy's on the Bowery. The two photographers also shared a steady outlet for their work at PM magazine, whose editor, Ralph Steiner, had published, under the title Why France Fell, a portfolio of Model street portraits done in Europe shortly before her 1940 departure.

"Many of these pictures were from a few test rolls Model had shot on the Riviera to see whether she could put into practice the brief instruction she had received from Kertész's wife. In other words, at the very moment that Kertész himself was being rejected by New York editors, Model was enjoying great success by showing a few, first, tentative experiments as inept as Riis's had been. Like Riis, she saw at once that she should not improve her technique. On the contrary, she made over-sized prints in which the images became even grainier and coarser. When Edward Weston, recognizing the raw power of such work, once asked her how she managed to achieved it, she answered contemptuously that she just sent her negatives out to the corner drugstore to be processed.

"Although such easy, unearned acceptance made her as cynical about the photography world as she was about the one in which her subjects lived, Model continued to work in the same vein in America. In New York, she photographed Wall Street capitalists from below, with a camera held down at the level of the pavement and the tangle of passing feet in the crowd. Both sorts of pictures looked as if they were taken from the point of view of somebody being trampled in a panic in the streets."


 


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