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First Color (1953 – 1965)

Inge Morath: First Color (1953 – 1965)

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“Rediscovering Inge Morath’s Early Color Photographs” by Mary Panzer.

The recovery of Inge Morath’s color work provides the opportunity to greatly expand our knowledge of Morath’s working techniques as a photographer. In some cases, although their original sequences have been lost, it is now possible to restore photo-essays from which the color pictures had been removed. In so doing, we gain a deeper insight into Morath’s method as we watch her decide when and where to use color film. We see when she recognized that only color could relay the message she wanted to send. 

We discover photographs that use color with wit and a sure touch, in a way that only Morath could achieve. No less crucially, when we open the door to Morath’s color photographs, her work allows us to consider the color work of an entire generation. The effort to see Morath’s work in its original context, on the pages of magazines such as Holiday, LIFE, and Paris March, leads us to discover how much color photography was published in the decades following World War II, even by those who insisted that they never worked in color, or never did so willingly – including all those who worked for Magnum Photos – during the 1950s and ’60s. Surely Inge Morath would have enjoyed the irony of this process. The work to which she leads us has always been there, hiding in plain sight, obscured by the acceptance of rules made long ago by men and women who never followed them in the first place. The work that Inge Morath kept, but never exhibited, now opens the door to a new kind of history, within which she shines.  

© Mary Panzer, 2009.

Excerpted from “The Complete Story – Black and White, and Color: Rediscovering Inge Morath’s Early Color Photographs,” in Inge Morath: First Color, Göttingen: Steidl, 2009.

Read the Afterword by John Jacob

China (1978 – 83)

Inge Morath: China (1978 – 83)

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Introduction by Arthur Miller

This is not about the Cultural Revolution and its consequences, which, like the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, will be sifted by generations of scholars and made to confirm a thousand different conclusions. It is a witness, neither more nor less, of two people encountering the collapse of an orthodoxy at the very time when the faithful were emerging from the fallen temple with blinking eyes, trying to make out ordinary objects in the no longer charmed, unearthly light of ordinary days.

It is the moment when the great choirs of worshipers are stilled, when the mountains have ceased to dance (as some insist they did), and Necessity once again is deaf to all rhapsodic persuasions and will yield only to accountants and engineers, and the kind of people who may get things done but can never believe in what they cannot touch and see. And this too will pass into yet other permutations.

Here, then, is a bit of how it was for two people, well disposed and trying to see and listen, at the particular moment when the dust of the temple began to settle.

© Arthur Miller, from Chinese Encounters, New York: Farrar Straus Girous, 1979.

A Llama in Times Square (1957)

A Llama in Times Square (1957)

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Like many of the iconic images for which she is recognized, Inge Morath’s A Llama in Times Square originated in a magazine assignment. In its December 2, 1957 issue, LIFE magazine published a one-page story, in its humorous Animals section, entitled High-paid llama in big city. The story was about a menagerie of television animals—including, in addition to the llama, large and small dogs, cats, birds, a pig, a kangaroo, and a miniature bull—living at home with their trainers in a Manhattan brownstone.

The story in LIFE featured three photographs by Morath, including a cropped close-up of Linda the Llama. Curiously, the caption accompanying the closeup describes the llama as ogling from the window of a taxi on her way to make a television appearance. In fact, she was in the back seat of her trainer’s car, and, as Morath explains, on her way home from the studio when the picture was taken. Morath’s full caption reads, “Linda, the Lama (sic) rides home via Broadway. She is just coming home from a television show in New York’s A.B.C. studios and now takes a relaxed and long-necked look at the lights of one of the world’s most famous streets.” In Morath’s work chronology, her contact sheets for the story are marked “57-1,” indicating that this was her first assignment in the year 1957. On the back of a vintage work print of the iconic picture, Morath has inscribed the caption, “57-1.That’s when that was—driving around with Linda the Llama.”

Nevertheless, a selection of snapshots taken by an unknown photographer, showing Morath posing with the llama and her trainers and photographing them on a New York City street, are all dated 1956 in Morath’s hand. These indicate that she had spent a great deal of time getting to know her subjects, and may even have been responsible for “pitching” the story to LIFE well in advance of the time it was published. Such was Morath’s typical working method. Since its original publication in LIFE, A Llama in Times Square has been exhibited and republished extensively, taking on a life of its own. The photograph is undoubtedly the most recognizable and beloved of Inge Morath’s iconic images, having been seen everywhere from classrooms and calendars to museum walls and even Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine. Viewed alone, it appears to have been a perfect example of being in the right place at just the right moment. In fact, as Morath’s contact sheets show, it was the result of considerable work and forethought. An appearance of spontaneity, masking the reality of careful planning, is one of the prime characteristics of Morath’s work as photojournalist, and shows the degree of comfort that she was able to establish with her subjects while working on their stories.

Text by John P. Jacob, Writer and Curator
(Original text appears in Magnum Contact Sheets)

The Misfits (1960)

The Misfits (1960)

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Extracts from an interview with Inge Morath by Gail Levin

The coverage of The Misfits was a very special thing. The producer had a unique idea of creating a document about the shooting of this movie, for which he hired Magnum photographers. We were paired up and I was going to photograph with Henri Cartier-Bresson. We planned to go across the country. I didn’t know much about America at all, so we rented a car and went a very complicated route; Blue Ridge Mountains and Mississippi and we saw all the literary sights.

Anyway we arrived in Reno, which is so American and so western. It’s just marvelous to look at, and I was so intrigued because in the hotel room there was a machine and you could make your own coffee in the morning. I’d never seen such a thing. This was exotic. And naturally, being such an American movie, it was also exotic to us. So we approached it from our very European point of view, which was fun. We started early, often waited for very long times, and finished quite late; and it got hotter and hotter. Henri and I had worked together before, so we were never in each other’s way. Because two photographers on one movie could be really falling over each other. But we had very different territories and interests, at least in the approach to something.

Everybody has a certain distance at which he or she is most comfortable. There is a certain way of seeing the same thing in a different composition, or from a very different angle. I’m one who always wanders around a lot, always looking. And so does Henri, but boy is he fast. Wow. John Huston I’d worked with before. He was terrific to me. My very first movie job was with him in Moulin Rouge and I worked with him several times later. Monty Clift was also a great friend of mine whom I adored. Thelma Ritter was marvelous because she anchored this very American thing. And Eli Wallach. Eli is a funny guy and a wonderful actor. Eli and Marilyn were like buddies, and you can see it. Monty and Marilyn were kindred souls. And Clark Gable was Clark Gable. Marilyn Monroe was marvelous to look at; there was a shimmery, mother-of-pearl quality totally her own. Since she quite frequently arrived hours late to the set, co-stars and crew would go off into a hot semi-drowsiness, but madly jumped to their feet at the first sight of her car. Her arrival was invariably felt like an electric shock. It was a fantastic world; we photographers were glad to be outsiders.

Clark Gable told me all his adventures in the movies. Clark was wonderful. He said, “I will inscribe your jacket for you.” So he wrote on the back of my collar, “Clark Gable, Reno, Nevada, July 21st, 60.” And he said, “You’d better have somebody embroider this so it won’t wash out.” I had it made in Paris, embroidered on the back of the collar. I was kind of in awe of Arthur Miller. I’d seen Salesman and The Crucible and I thought, oh God, this man will be very sad all the time. The first time I met him, it was very hot and John Huston took Henri and me to a pool where they were all swimming. We didn’t go in the pool because we were busy photographing. Arthur was swimming a backstroke, and he told a very funny story, swimming all the time. It really was a short story which he wrote about a guy who was making shoulder pads. I never heard of anyone making shoulderpads; that in itself was exotic. But it was a very funny story, and very long, and when he finished the story and got out of the water, I had a whole new idea about Arthur Miller being a funny fellow. © Inge Morath, 2001.

Text constructed from Morath’s notes and from a conversation with Gail Levin for Making the Misfits, © Great Performances, Thirteen/WNET, 2001.

The Road to Reno (1960)

Inge Morath: The Road to Reno

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Introduction by Arthur Miller

Frank Taylor, who was an old friend of mine, and who I inveigled into being the producer [of The Misfits], thought it would be a great idea to get Magnum to send over as many people as they could to photograph it. I didn’t know any photographers and I had no opinion about it; it was the last thing in the world I was worried about. Henri [Cartier-Bresson] and Inge decided to do a motor trip across the country [on their way to the set in Reno]. Both of them were Europeans, of course, and they thought that, driving across the country, they would run into all kinds of wonderful, different cooking experiences as they would in Europe. When confronted the inevitable hamburger everywhere, they were driven back to eating carrots and apples and tea.

The ’60s in America, of course, was the despair and the secret hope of a lot of European intellectuals. The freedom, the local inventiveness, the friendliness, charmed them. And Inge, I know, was pleasantly surprised by how dear the people were. Of course, most people were to her; she was very affectionate toward people, and they reacted in a similar way. However, it was a difficult trip because she couldn’t eat meat and Henri liked more delicate cooking. So they were driven half mad by the carrots and the apples and the tea. And they arrived in Reno half-starved and ready to go to work. Continue reading The Road to Reno (1960)

Iran (1956)

Inge Morath: Iran (1956)

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Interview with Inge Morath by Kurt Kaindl, Salzburg, 1992

I wanted to photograph the Silk Road, to follow Marco Polo’s traces to China. I thought it would be a good idea to start in Iran. So, I told Holiday Magazine that I would like to photograph Iran; that was in 1956. I was also very interested in the region, in old civilizations which are suddenly overbalanced by modern times. Iran was a country where they had started to build factories, but a lot was still medieval.

Robert Delpire came with me to Iran because he wanted to make a book. Later he left, and I finished the project on my own. It was crazy, because at that time it was very complicated for women to travel alone in the Middle East. I was always very considerate of how people live. In Iran, I wore the chador and long trousers with a gown, and paid I attention to customs. If you don’t respect what people do, you should not photograph them.

I traveled to Abadan. Delpire accompanied me there, and then I drove back alone with my Armenian driver. But sometimes even he was afraid. If nomads came, he stayed at a great distance and I went walking towards them, armed with Aspirin and sugar. At that time I also realized the advantage of a Polaroid and I gave them a picture. The nomads occasionally shot at people, killed them, but I always got along very well with them. It was amazing, but it was also fierce.

Finally, I traveled to Iraq. It was summer and there was a big heat. It was the wrong time for Iraq. Then I went to Syria and Jordan. At that time there were very few hotels. Occasionally, I slept in ruins, which was great but also a little dangerous. But I think I trusted in God. I came finally back. I was one of the few at that time who were able to travel any place I wanted.

Read the Preface by John Jacob