Lashings from a Lens

Lisette Model at Jeu de Paume

“Camera equivalents of bitter tongue-lashings,” is how Edward Steichen described Lisette Model’s photographs—stark, unforgiving black and white scenes, taken spontaneously on the streets of Nice and Manhattan. Model herself always advised her many students and disciples—including Diane Arbus, Bruce Weber and Larry Fink—to “shoot from the gut,” and it shows in her own unflinching images, typically taken close-up and brutally cropped to focus acutely upon her subjects’ loneliness and frailty. Born in 1901, Model was an accidental photographic genius—her youth in Vienna was spent training to be a singer—but her work as an artist and teacher has contributed immeasurably to contemporary photography. A new exhibition of her photographs opens at Jeu de Paume, Paris, this month.
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