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f³ – freiraum für fotografie : Tina Modotti : Revolution & Passion


f³ – freiraum für fotografie presents the exhibition Tina Modotti : Revolution & Passion.

Tina Modotti is undoubtedly one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of photography. She was an actress, photographer and revolutionary.

In 1896 she was born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini in Udine, Italy, in the poorest of circumstances. At the age of twelve, she was already working as a seamstress to support her family. At the age of just 17, she embarked in Genoa for the USA in search of a better life.

After various jobs in textile factories and in the film industry, she met the well-known photographer Edward Weston in San Francisco in 1923, who brought her into contact with the medium. Attracted by the revolutionary mood in politics and art, she moved with him to Mexico in the 1920s, as did numerous other intellectuals and artists. The encounter with the country shaped her life: Her main photographic work was created there between 1923 and 1930; she held up a mirror to the country and identified with it socially, politically and culturally.

After her first still lifes and architectural photographs, Modotti quickly developed her own partisan photography, which – as a forerunner of Photographie Humaniste, so to speak – advocated for a more just world: she photographed the working, poor population; weather-beaten hands holding a spade; beggars sleeping on the streets; she documented the revolutionary indigenous movement as well as trade union and peasant assemblies. She especially often photographed the lives of women and children. Her aspiration was to use her pictures to show the reality of life in the country.

Her photographs of the labor movement of the 1920s, as well as her images of the international artistic scene that moved to the country after the Mexican Revolution, are historical documents of inestimable value. During her lifetime, her photographs were published in international newspapers and magazines.

But it does not stop at documenting social circumstances: in 1927 Modotti joined the Communist Party. Together with her circle of friends, which included Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lotte Jacobi, Anna Seghers, Julio Antonio Mella and Pablo Neruda, she was politically active. Like many other left-wing emigrants, she was expelled from her adopted country in 1930 after an assassination attempt on President Pasqual Ortiz Rubio. She goes first to Berlin, then to Moscow, and finally to Spain, where she works during the Spanish Civil War in the International Red Aid and is active against fascism. In 1939 she returns to Mexico.

Tina Modotti was a modern woman who determined her own life. In many areas of her multifaceted life and work, she took a pioneering role and had a decisive influence on early Concerned Photography. In the night of January 5 to 6, 1942, she succumbed to a heart attack in a cab at the age of only 46.


Tina Modotti : Revolution and Passion
November 19, 2022 – February 5, 2023
f³ – freiraum für fotografie
Waldemarstraße 17
10179 Berlin, Germany

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