Martine Franck's Women

The Intuitive Eye of Magnum Photos' Reigning Queen

“Curiosity, in a way, makes you open doors, makes you surpass yourself, makes you go places,” says Martine Franck, wife of the late Henri Cartier-Bresson and one of only a handful of women invited to join Magnum Photos in the early 80s. After arriving in Paris in the mid 1960s, Franck quickly developed a reputation for producing close, narrative portraits of some of the most important artists and writers of her—or any other—time, including Michel Foucault, Marc Chagall and Agnès Varda. But her burning curiosity about the world around her has always made her interests drift towards the fringe, her preferred subjects being the displaced, disregarded or otherwise outcast—many of them women. In a career spanning over 40 years, Franck has traveled to all corners of the earth, photographing women who have done something remarkable or unexpected. From exiles huddled in a Paris church, resisting deportation from France, to expressionist Butoh dancers in Kyoto, to street candle sellers in Morocco, Franck’s photographs tell the story of female self-determination with clarity and honesty. This month, Steidl publishes a collection of some of the best of these photographs. Women/Femmes is a book that not only surveys an impressive range of work from one of the finest photographers of the past 50 years, but also stands as a testament to the powers of curiosity, compassion and the simple act of looking.

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