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Remembering Sabine Weiss Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

30 December 2021

Sabine Weiss, the Swiss-French photographer who disdained characterizations of her work as humanist because she was "a complete photographer," died on Tuesday. She was 97.

She was eight years old when she bought a Bakelite camera with her own money. Her father, a chemical engineer, set up a darkroom where she learned to process film and make prints.

"My family thought I would be a lab technician," she said. But she wanted to be a professional photographer, even though the field was not open to women at the time. But she apprenticed with Studio Boissonnas in Geneva where she learned advanced photo processing techniques and then worked in Paris as an assistant for German fashion photographer Willy Maywald.

She published her first photo in 1945 when she was 21. By the time she turned 28, Steichen had included her in his Post-War European Photography at the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1949 during a visit to Italy, she met the American painter Hugh Weiss. They married on Sept. 23, 1950 and adopted a daughter, Marion.

In 1950 she began an association with Agence Rapho, the French press agency which also represented Doisneau, Boubat, Brihat, Dieuzaide,[4] Brandt, Ken Heyman, Izis, Kertész, Karsh, Lartigue, Ronis, Savitry and Elkoury. But the only other woman there was Janine Niépce.

In addition to her agency work, she photographed the children of her neighborhood and captured images of Parisian daily life. Her portraits of the musicians and artists of her time, from Giocometti to Brigitte Bardot, are memorable in themselves.

She told her story in our Saturday matinee Sabine Weiss, A Photographer's Life after winning Les Rencontres d'Arle's Women in Motion Award for Photography in 2020.

In 1949, she and her husband, the American painter Hugh Weiss, were given a tip on an abandoned sculpture workshop in Paris, which they enlarged into a home. They lived there until her husband's death in 2007.

In 2017, Weiss donated herarchive of 200,000 negatives, 7,000 contact sheets, 2,700 vintage prints and 2,000 late prints, 3,500 prints and 2,000 slides to the Musée de l'Élysée in Lausanne.

Although she had stopped taking pictures, Weiss remained involved with her archive until her death.

The BBC has a small gallery of her work as does her gallery, Holden Luntz Gallery.


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