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Lisette Model

Text from The Photography Encyclopedia

Model, Lisette
Austrian, 1901-1983

Model, Lisette, Austrian born, American portrait photographer and teacher

Inspirational teacher for a whole generation of young photographers, most notably Diane Arbus, at The New School, Model produced many noteworthy series of photographs. Her candid portraits of people on the fringes of society secured her reputation, and she went on to produce portfolios such as Reflections, portraying those mysterious images in store windows along Fifth Avenue.

Born in Vienna, she studied music with Arnold Schonberg there before moving to Paris, where she continued her musical training. Around 1933 she turned from a musical career to pursue her interest in painting and photography. She quickly focused on subjects that would be her major interest ironic studies of the well to do and sympathetic portraits of the blind and homeless.

Seeking to escape the political unrest of 1938 Europe, she emigrated with her husband, Evsa Model, to New York City. She worked in the photo lab of the newspaper PM until her photos of wealthy vacationers in the south of France appeared in the newspaper and established her reputation. By 1940 the Museum of Modern Art had acquired two of her prints and she was working for Harper's Bazaar. With the guidance of the magazine's art director, Alexey Brodovitch, she took pictures of unconventional nightclub performers as well as more experimental images.

From 1951 to 1954 and from 1958 to her death she was an instructor of photography at The New School. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1965 and a Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS) grant in 1967. A selection of her photos, Lisette Model, was published in 1979, and her work is held by major institutions, including the George Eastman House in Rochester and the Smithsonian Institution.


 


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