Who was Sabine Weiss? Street photography pioneer dies at 97



Sabine Weiss, a Franco-Swiss photographer has died at the age of 97, her family announced on Wednesday.

His camera spanned eight decades of ordinary life on the streets, and his contributions were later known as street photography. In an interview with the French daily La Croix, Weiss said: “A good image should move you, have a good composition and be sober. She believed that people’s sensibilities “must jump on you.” She was the legend and contemporary of Willy Ronis, Brassai and Robert Doisneau.

She has produced many important portraits of popular artists such as the famous cellist Pablo Casals, the French painter Fernand Léger, the composer Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky among many others. Weiss in her interviews had shared that photography was not something artistic for her because she had to make a living from it. She said: “It was a profession” and believed herself to be an artisan.


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Several prominent museums of the work have its permanent exhibition collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Center Pompidou in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She coined the term “humanist photography” which means humanist photography. Her work has been featured by several magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Vogue and Life.

She was born in Switzerland to a chemical engineer who made artificial pearls from fish scales. She had shared that she didn’t like going to school and had always been interested in photography. “I went on a summer day by bike,” she says. She started working in the studio in Paris from 1949 and had also taken French nationality. From 1942 to 1946, she learned photography from photographer Frédéric Boissonas in Geneva and obtained the Swiss photography diploma in 1945. It is also the year in which she publishes her first photo report.

Sabine Weiss met her husband Hugh Weiss, an American painter, in 1949 in Italy and the couple married the following year. Together, they adopted a girl named Marion. Of this phase of his life, Weiss said, “It was a beautiful time. We were between the end of the German occupation and the start of Americanization. People came out of a terrible ordeal and thought they could rebuild everything ”.

Image Credit: Les Rencontres D’Arles


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