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img655Tina Modotti (1896-1942) was an Italian actress, model, photographer, but above all a revolutionary in real life. Modotti was a contemporary of Dorothea Lange. See our post on Lange.

Modotti shared a lifelong friendship with Edward Weston, the photographer who taught her the finer photography points. She also shared her private life with revolutionary comrades in Mexico, Spain, Germany, Italy and Russia.

Much of Modotti’s works center around Mexico, its peoples, art, culture, the revolution and her comrades, but, of course, there is much more to the “eye“. Sensitivity and realism, again the same traits that are evident in Lange’s work, especially in their similar pictorial views of the contemporary social contract. Below is a YouTube video of some of Modotti’s works.

Modotti internalized the environment she found and wanted to partake in the societal change with an active role, as a revolutionary, using her art. The photograph below by Modotti would be worthy of the great John Heartfield (1891-1968) who used his photo montage art as a political weapon in his continuous fight against Fascism in Germany in the 1930’s.

Tina Modotti was an enigma to many in her immediate surroundings, and certainly to the great Chilean poet, politician and fellow communist traveler Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) the pseudonym of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. Neruda had this to say about Tina Modotti, a near surrealist love song expressed in exquisitely crafted words:

“Perfect your gentle name, perfect your fragile life-bees, shadows, fire, snow, silence and foam combining with steel and wire and pollen to make up your firm and delicate being.”(from the back of the book cover)

Mildred Constantine, author of the above 1975 monograph published by the Paddington Press, was well qualified to write the book. She knew Tina Modotti and many of her acquaintances. Constantine was professionally involved with photography, as an Assistant Curator from 1949-1972 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The book a somewhat out dated monograph by now, does deserve to be read!

Modotti and Lange, two women photographers of the same generation, covered the social side of life in depth laying at the same time perhaps unbeknown to each other the corner stone for the next generation of photographers’ “social realist outlook” which was soon to become wide spread in American photography.

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