Tina Modotti, photographer of The Revolution
English version

- Versión en español -

Tina Modotti por Edward Weston


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.

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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 till 1938.

Returning to Mexico incognito in 1939, she died three years later, a lonely - and controversial - death.

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- Versión en español -

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