“I didn’t choose photography; it chose me,” said Ilse Bing (American, born Germany, 1899–1998). Bing was just a snapshooter until forced to hone her photographic skills to produce illustrations for her doctoral dissertation at the University of Frankfurt on an 18th-century architect. Then in 1929, on a university field trip, the 30-year-old art historian saw for the first time a painting by Vincent van Gogh. She instantly decided to become an artist—but not a painter. Photography “was the trend of the time,” she recalled later. And the newest trend in photography was the Leica, a small, lightweight German camera. The...
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