Curious and tireless: the photography of Inge Morath. On display in Treviso

Review of the exhibition "Inge Morath. Life. Photography," in Treviso, Casa dei Carraresi, from February 28 to June 9, 2019.

For the first time in Italy, a retrospective of about one hundred and fifty black-and-white shots pays tribute to Inge Morath (Graz, 1923 - New York 2002), Magnum agency photographer who went beyond the photographic portrait with her camera and showed different cultures and worlds. Hosted inside the Casa dei Carraresi in the heart of Treviso, the retrospective Inge Morath. Life. Photography is curated by Marco Minuz, Brigitte Bluml Kaindl and Kurt Kaindl and will be on view until June 9, 2019.

After studying Languages at the University and some work experience, Morath joined the famous Magnum agency not as a photographer but as a writer, translator and researcher, learning the tricks of the trade from photographers such as Ernst Haas, Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson from the very beginning. On a trip to Venice she was impressed by the light and reflections in the city and began to take photographs, realizing immediately that that was her great passion and that she would devote the rest of her life to it. And so she also joins Magnum as a photographer, initially receiving minor assignments such as shoots at parties, fashion shows and art auctions and later winning more important assignments.

Inge Morath, Beduini che danzano, Baghdad 1958, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Dancing Bedouins, Baghdad 1958, © Magnum Photos

Inge Morath, Corso di bellezza sulla Fifth Avenue, New York 1958, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Beauty Course on Fifth Avenue, New York 1958, © Magnum Photos

Inge Morath, Lavavetri al Rockefeller Centre, New York 1958, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Window cleaner at Rockefeller Centre, New York 1958, © Magnum Photos

Inge Morath, Ballerina, Fiera di Siviglia 1987, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Dancer, Seville Fair 1987, © Magnum Photos

On the set of John Huston’s The Displaced (1961), where she was documenting the filming, she met American playwright Arthur Miller (New York, 1915 - Roxbury, 2005), who a year later would become her second husband. The two buy a farm in Roxbury, Connecticut, a two-hour drive from New York City. This house becomes a workshop for Inge Morath, a studio and writing desk for Miller, and an open place for many of the couple’s artist friends who will also be immortalized here by Inge’s camera.

At home anywhere, Inge Morath was a traveler and throughout her life made reportages in Spain, the Middle East, America, Russia, Romania, and China. Meticulous and serious in her work, she approached each trip with preparation and by studying the language and culture of the place. She knew and was fluent in German, English, French, Spanish, Romanian, Russian, and Mandarin. “More attracted to the human element than to the abstract,” as she described herself, Inge Morath was curious and tireless. It was precisely her desire for discovery and knowledge of many languages that enabled her to relate to people and get to know them more authentically. At her own expense, and beyond the deadlines of her assignments, she tried to make her trips last longer precisely to explore and deepen the culture of the places she visited. In the photographs exhibited in this retrospective, one can see a great attention to the human element, to attitudes, and one can see how her passion for cultures and the new allowed her to make shots that were full of life and capable of telling. As she herself said, “I loved the people. They allowed me to photograph them, but they also wanted me to listen to them, to tell me what they knew. So we told their story together.” Whether it was ordinary people, such as Bedouins in the desert or fishermen at Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice, or public figures, such as actors, writers and directors, his interest was unprejudiced and always directed toward the intimacy of each. A well-known photograph displayed in this exhibition is Marilyn Monroe during the filming of the movie “The Displaced” (1960). In this one the famous actress can be seen walking barefoot under trees as she goes over the part assigned to her for the film. An icon always portrayed in a seductive manner is shown here, however, from a more reflective and contemplative point of view.

On her first trip to New York City in 1956, Inge Morath met the draftsman Saul Steinberg (Râmnicu S?rat, Romania 1914 - New York, 1999) and was enthralled by his production of masks made on paper bags and cardboard boxes. In the following years the collaboration between these artists gave rise to the Masks project in which Inge Morath portrayed different people wearing these masks having different expressions. In this retrospective a section is devoted precisely to this reportage. Shots such as Passengers (1962) depicting everyday life and showing different faces, somewhat grotesque and funny at the same time. In general, there are many photographs that Morath devotes to the United States and especially to New York. Famous, and featured in this retrospective, is “Llama near Times Square” (1957), in which a llama is seen protruding from the window of a cab and which is part of a larger project devoted to animals employed on film sets.

A gaze without barriers is that of Inge Morath, a tireless artist who is always on the move. Able to see people without filters and show their most authentic side. Inge Morath’s photographs are like pages from her personal diary. As she herself says, lPhotography is essentially a personal matter: the search for an inner truth."

Inge Morath, Lama vicino a Times Square, New York 1957, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Blade near Times Square, New York 1957, © Magnum Photos

Inge Morath, Marilyn Monroe surante le riprese del film Gli spostati, Nevada 1960, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Marilyn Monroe surante the filming of "The Displaced," Nevada 1960, © Magnum Photos

Inge Morath, Audrey Hepburn, Messico 1958, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Audrey Hepburn, Mexico 1958, © Magnum Photos

Inge Morath, Giovane donna con la pelliccia, USA 1960, © Magnum Photos
Inge Morath, Young woman in fur coat, USA 1960, © Magnum Photos