“Photography is a strange phenomenon. In spite of the use of that technical instrument, the camera, no two photographers, even if they were at the same place at the same time, come back with the same pictures. The personal vision is usually there from the beginning; result of a special chemistry of background and feelings, traditions and their rejection, of sensibility and voyeurism. You trust your eye and you cannot help but bare your soul. One’s vision finds of necessity the form suitable to express it.”
Inge Morath, Life as a Photographer, 1999
Her trademark weren’t constructed images and she never grew tired of emphasizing that she preferred capturing everyday subjects with her camera to taking pictures at big events.
In her career as a photographer, which lasted almost 50 years, she took portraits of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield – and still her interest were the unknown people all around the world.
She traveled around the world, searching for the stuff that makes a country and the people of a country. Her intention was to capture the typical, everyday things and the soul of a place in her pictures. Thus with her way of photography she became one of the greatest icons in press and travel photography.
I’m talking about Inge Morath.
Born in 1923 in the Austrian city of Graz, she traveled a lot even as a little child because of her parents‘ profession (both were scientists). From early on her passion was studying languages and so she decided to study Romance languages and linguistics in Berlin. Also for her later career as a photographer learning a country’s language was an important step for discovering and experiencing the soul of a country.
It was by coincidence that she began to focus on photography, as the linguist first worked as a journalist in Vienna and Salzburg and from 1949 as a text editor for the renowned photo agency Magnum. Almost inevitably she got in touch with photography and had the chance to learn from Simon Guttmann. In 1953 she finally worked under contract as a second photographer for Magnum. Her success came very soon: In 1956 she published her first book “Guerre à la tristesse”. In the same year she opened her first exhibition. Soon she started to work for film productions where she met her great love and second husband, Arthur Miller.
During her lifetime she published numerous books and countless exhibitions all over the world have been dedicated to her. Even in the old age, she never quit starting new projects. And that’s what fascinates me so much about Inge Morath. She did not only work with photography, she actually lived photography.