Inge Morath

Inge Morath was born in Graz, Austria, in 1923. After studying languages in Berlin, she became a translator, then a journalist and the Austrian editor for Heute, an Information Service Branch publication based in Munich. All her life Morath would remain a prolific diarist and letter-writer, retaining a dual gift for words and pictures that made her unusual among her colleagues.

Inge Morath, 1956. Photographer unknown.
Inge Morath, 1956. Photographer unknown.

A friend of photographer Ernst Haas, she wrote articles to accompany his photographs and was invited by Robert Capa and Haas to Paris to join the newly founded Magnum agency as an editor. She began photographing in London in 1951, and assisted Henri Cartier-Bresson as a researcher in 1953-54. In 1955, after working for two years as a photographer, she became a Magnum member.

In the following years, Morath traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Her special interest in the arts found expression in photographic essays published by a number of leading magazines. After her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller in 1962, Morath settled in New York and Connecticut. She first visited the USSR in 1965. In 1972 she studied Mandarin and obtained a visa to China, making the first of many trips to the country in 1978.

Morath was at ease anywhere. Some of her most important work consists of portraits, but of passers-by as well as celebrities. She was also adept at photographing places: her pictures of Boris Pasternak’s home, Pushkin’s library, Chekhov’s house, Mao Zedong’s bedroom, artists’ studios and cemetery memorials are permeated with the spirit of invisible people still present. Inge Morath died in New York City on 30 January 2002.