Masters of Photography: Tina Modotti
An Extraordinary Photographer
Tina Modotti was an extraordinary woman who at various times was an actress (both on stage and in Hollywood), revolutionary, a professional portrait studio photographer with Edward Weston, an early fine art photographer commissioned by the government of Mexico, lover and subject of Edward Weston, lover and subject of Diego Rivera (Mexican artist famous for his murals in Mexico and in the USA), lover of several other prominent political revolutionaries, and a friend of Frida Kahlo.
I write “lover” here to reflect the closeness of her relationships with these other artists and the revolutionary leaders. She was not just an acquaintance or friend. Unfortunately, “lover of famous men” has been how she was remembered for many years. She was more than that.
Her status has been rising since the 1990s as her work has been “rediscovered” and her work as a photographer has been better appreciated. She was multi-talented, highly intelligent, independent, liberated, multi-lingual (she spoke four languages), ambitious, driven, and vibrant. I have no doubt that her famous lovers and the other men and women she met looked at her as more than just a pretty face. They were probably captivated by her extraordinary personality, passion for life and politics, her artistic talents, as well as her “Hollywood looks.”
She led a very eventful and extraordinary life and was considered part of the avant garde artist community in Mexico during the 1920s. While she was committed and evidently loved the people of Mexico, she was eventually imprisoned and then deported from Mexico as an “enemy of the state.”
I admire her passion for life and her photographs, especially her compositions of hands and still life.
In 1991, one of her photographs (Roses) was sold at auction at Sotheby’s and was at that time the most expensive photo sold at auction with a price of $167,000.
She made that photo when she was just 28 years old and had only been photographing seriously for about a year at the time she made it!