Tina Modotti's short, intense life (1896-1942) has sparked numerous biographies, but museum curator Patricia Albers's is the first to do true justice to Modotti's photography and to persuasively trace its roots in her personal experiences. Albers does a fine job nailing down the particulars of this remarkable woman's picaresque journey: impoverished childhood in Italy; introduction to bohemianism and radicalism in California; amorous and artistic fulfillment in Mexico; a murder that launched her into the maelstrom of Communist Party activism in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Spain; return to Mexico and premature death. Even more importantly, Albers conveys the essence of Modotti's haunting images, which displayed a modernist technique similar to that of her lover Edward Weston, but applied it to the respectful, loving portrayal of Mexico's common people. Contemporary readers may regret Modotti's decision to abandon photography in 1932 and her unflinching loyalty to Stalinism (including a decade-long liaison with a particularly dogmatic party functionary), but Albers makes readers understand that the same passion that fueled her art and her many love affairs underpinned her commitment to Communism. Modotti's story is not one of reasoned choices and measured steps, but a wild, romantic saga of intrigue, heartbreak, excess, and catastrophe all vividly captured in this poignant book. --Wendy Smith
--This text refers to the
From Publishers Weekly
Art historians have called Tina Modotti (1896-1942) "the best-known unknown photographer of the 20th century." She also acted in silent films in Hollywood, went to Mexico with Edward Weston in 1922, was a nurse in Spain's Civil War and a prominent Communist, antifascist and internationalist. Partner to equally extraordinary men, friend to the most creative minds of her generation, she died alone in a taxi cab at the age of 46. Shadows, Fire, Snow is her first truly satisfying biography. Patricia Albers has built upon Mildred Constantine's Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life and Margaret Hooks's Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary, but hers is a more deftly researched book that takes greater risks. In tightly written passagesAalmost too dense at timesAshe beautifully evokes pivotal scenes in Modotti's artistic and political development, revealing her generosity of spirit and the passionate commitment to her ideals that kept her moving from country to country and eventually drove her to give up her art. This is a biography divided by placeAItaly, Austria, Hollywood, Mexico City, Berlin, Moscow, MadridAand about a woman who longed to be rooted to a place, but who couldn't allow herself to settle down. Albers's understanding of this contradiction provides the narrative tension that makes this biography such riveting reading (and great film material). Throughout Modotti's short life, she counted among her friends and co-workers Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, American writer John Dos Passos and Russian revolutionary and feminist Alexandra Kollontai, among many others. Modotti's photographs were often documentary in nature, what Carleton Beals called seeking the "perfect snapshot." Albers's rendition of Modotti's life goes a long way toward allowing us to understand this extraordinary woman. 60 photos not seen by PW. Agent, Laurie Fox of the Linda Chester Literary Agency. Foreign rights sold in Germany. (Apr.) FYI: In March, St. Martin's is publishing Tina Modotti: A Life, translated by Patricia J. Duncan.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to the