Inge Morath. (1923-2002)

She came of age during WWII in Germany. Escaping west to avoid the onslaught of Russians she eventually landed a job with the US forces as a writer. She was multi-lingual so she was a natural for this position.

“In fact to read Morath’s writing is to be reminded that writing and photographing are not so far apart: both depend on seeing; not just looking but noticing- discerning the patterns and revelations that are typically passed over and conventionalized.” – Linda Gordon

Needing a photographer for her stories she was introduced to Ernst Haas who was also a refugee of the war. As Haas’ reputation spread he was asked by Robert Capa to come to Paris to join Magnum – the first collective for photographers. Haas insisted that Inge also join Magnum though not as a photographer at first. This came several years later in 1955.

In 1953 Capa assigned Morath to Henri Cartier Bresson ( HCB) to act as mentor and intern. This was a two way street as Morath was looking to become a photographer in her own right and HCB needed someone to translate, write notes and captions.

One of the interesting facets of the photograph above is that it is a still from “The Misfits” . Directed by John Houston from a screenplay by Arthur Miller. It was an all star affair with Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Cliff, Clark Gable ( his last movie), Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter.

In the 1950s into the 60s it was a significant source of work for Magnum and Morath to go shoot movie stills. Inge had worked with John Huston before on Moulin Rouge , so it was no surprise that Henri Cartier Bresson and Morath were sent out to shoot this latest movie. They both drove from NY city to Reno Nevada. This road trip is the basis of one of Morath’s book “The Road to Reno” Apparently 18 photojournalists were invited but honestly I only know of Morath’s photos. This speaks to the strength of her abilities.

There is also the true story of how Morath saved the life of Audey Murphy, wartime hero when she kept him from drowning . He was in the John Huston movie, Unforgiven. Murphy was relaxing on a row boat and it tipped.  No one else jumped in so Inge did and saved the star from a most ignoble death.

In the 1950’s Morath globetrotter the world for various projects. She was especially fond of Spain but did extensive reportage in Iran. Linda Gordon, who’s book was used for this article does raise the issue that Morath knowingly participated in a British Petroleum photo campaign at the time they were implicated in the overthrow of the government in Iran. Gordon opined that Morath was adverse to confrontation and therefore completed the campaign.

Morath and Arthur Miller

After Miller and Monroe divorced, Morath and Miller found a kinship in each other. Often traveling together and then marrying. Their travels took them all over the world. They frequently collaborated on projects though sometimes the photos didn’t match the text and they seemed to be happy with this arrangement. This allowed each to explore the subject matter in their own way.

Much of the information for this article were gathered from these two books: