- Versión en español
Yo sabía de ti, Tina Modotti,
de tu precioso nombre, de tu gracia,
de tu fina y dulcísima presencia,
mucho antes de verte, de encontrarte.
Rafael Alberti, Madrid (1973)
Until recently Tina Modotti's reputation was based on her personal
association with Edward Weston, for whom she did modeling during
the 1920s, and her relations with famous men that were related
to artistic, political and historical developments in the twentieth
century. However, her sharp focused portraits, still-lifes,
and abstract compositions, during her time in Mexico, show that
she has been an accomplished photographer in her own right.
Modotti's work combines a sophisticated sense of design with
socially and politically oriented subject matter. Her images
of the Mexican working classes and Mexican artifacts became
powerful revolutionary emblems.
Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti was born in Undine,
Italy, on august 16 of 1896. She was educated at schools in
Italy and Austria and in 1908 she started to work in an Undine
textile factory. In 1913 she left her native Italy to meet her
father and sister in San Francisco, becoming a star of the local
Italian theatre before marrying the romantic poet-painter Roubaix
de I'Abrie Richey. By 1920, she had embarked on a Hollywood
film career and immersed herself in bohemian Los Angeles, beginning
an intense relationship with the respected American photographer
Edward Weston, who introduced her in photography.
On her trip to Mexico in 1922 for her husband's funeral, who
died in Mexico City that year, she met the Mexican muralists
and became enthralled with the burgeoning cultural renaissance
there. Increasingly dissatisfied with the film world, she persuaded
Weston to move with her to Mexico. Her Mexico City homes became
renowned gathering places for artists, writers and radicals,
where Diego Rivera courted Frida Kahlo. Turning her camera to
record Mexico in its most vibrant years, her photographs achieve
a striking synthesis of artistic form and social content. Her
contact with the muralists and members of the Mexican Artists
Union group such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Charlot,
Orozco, Siqueiros, including a brief affair with Rivera, led
to her involvement in radical politics. In 1927 she became a
member of the Mexican Communist Party and started to work for
Mexican Folkways magazine.
In 1929, she was frame for the murder of her lover,
the Cuban revolutionary Julio Antonio Mella, gunned down at
her side on a Mexico City street. The following year she was
accused of complicity in the assassination attempt on the life
of Pascual Ortiz Rubio, President of Mexico, but was acquitted.
Expelled from Mexico in 1930, she went to Berlin and then to
the Soviet Union, where she abandoned photography for a political
activism that brought her into contact with Sergei Eisenstein,
Alexandra Kollontaii, La Pasionaria, Ernest Hemingway and Robert
Capa. In 1934 Modotti moved to France and then to Spain, where
she was a reporter for the Republican newspaper Ayuda
Returning to Mexico incognito in 1939, she died
three years later, a lonely - and controversial - death.