Lisette Model was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, in 1901. Music was her passion and she studied voice and piano. With Hitlerís rise to power in Germany, the safety of Jewish people was in question, even in Austria. Model moved with her family to France in 1926. There, she took up photography so that she would have a practical skill on which to rely. Photography became both her medium of artistic expression and her main source of livelihood.
In 1938, Model immigrated to New York City with her husband, who was a painter. She fell in love with the cityís noisy, narrow streets, tall buildings, fast pace, and energy. Throughout the next ten years she mainly photographed subjects she found on the city streets.
Her powerful, though nonconventional, images of New York were frequently seen in Harperís Bazaar. It was through her role as a teacher, however, that Model had the greatest impact on young photographers. For the thirty years before her death in 1983, she taught her students to open their eyes and respond to their subjects with their hearts.
READING THE PHOTOGRAPH
Window Reflections, Fifth Avenue,
New York City, 1940
This image is from Modelís series of photographs of store windows. Photographing this subject matter allowed her to include information from both sides of the street all at once, as the reflections showed activity both inside and outside of the windows. By aiming her camera directly at a window, she captured the feel of the city in a jumble of reflections and shadows. Framing the view of a photograph in this way was daring and is an example of the experimental approach to art that European photographers brought to this country.
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