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Art HERstory: Inge Mörath


Self-Photograph of Inge Mörath

Self-Photograph of Inge Mörath

Some people know what they’re going to do from the beginning. Others, like me, found out what’s best from the through trial and error. Yeah, trial and error is time consuming and frustrating, but it makes for a much more interesting existence. Inge Mörath and I are alike in that sense. As a matter of fact, I see a lot of her when I look in the mirror. Inge wasn’t always sure about where life would take her, but she made quite a name for herself out of sheer dreaming. Her career path had many forks, but she pursued them all until she found one that fit her. She had that Nike mentality, she just did it.

"Dancer, Feria in Sevilla, Spain, 1987." I love this photograph. I can feel the enegry and happiness in this photo without seeing the entire room. Oh yeah, I love the dancer's dress too.

"Dancer, Feria in Sevilla, Spain, 1987." I love this photograph. I can feel the enegry and happiness in this photo without seeing the entire room. Oh yeah, I love the dancer's dress too.

Ingeborg Mörath was born in Graz, Austria in 1923. Both of her parents were scientists so Inge spent a lot of her time in labs and universities throughout Europe. Although born in Germany, Inge was educated in French schools. Her parents specialized in wood chemistry, whatever that is. Inge’s adolescence was saturated with beakers, test tubes, and litmus paper, so it’s not a shock that she decided to take an alternative career path.

"An Encounter Near Times Square, 1957." They say expect the unexpected in New York City. I guess they're right.

"An Encounter Near Times Square, 1957." They say expect the unexpected in New York City. I guess they're right.

Avant-garde art was Inge’s first love. The two became acquainted in 1937 when the Nazi party arranged for the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibit to come to a nearby town. The purpose of the exhibit was to ignite a flame of hatred towards modern art in the hearts of Germans. Instead, the exhibit ignited an inferno of passion in Inge’s soul.

“I found a number of these paintings exciting and fell in love with Franz Marc’s Blue Horse. Only negative comments were allowed, and thus began a long period of keeping silent and concealing thoughts.”

Inge hid her interest in painting and focused on another art form at the university level. She attended Berlin University as a Language student. Through he studies she became fluent in French, English, Romanian, German, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. Upon completion of her studies, Inge was drafted for factory service in World War II. She was stationed in Tempelhof, Germany alongside Ukrainian prisoners of war. During her service, the factory was bombed by Russians. To escape death Inge fled on foot to Austria.

"Woman in Her Bedroom, Johannesburg, 1955." This photograph is one of the only ones taken in color. Inge's signature is her real-life, black and white photos. The colors in this shot are amazing!

"Woman in Her Bedroom, Johannesburg, 1955." This photograph is one of the only ones taken in color. Inge's signature is her real-life, black and white photos. The colors in this shot are amazing!

Scarred and traumatized from her brush with death, Inge vowed to never photograph war and chose to focus on the results of such violence. She put down her camera for a while and worked as a translator and journalist. That was a smart decision in my book. She loved words and studied them so why not make a career out of it? She was actually living out my current dream.

"Calder in His Roxbury Studio, 1963." This photograph is of American sculptor Alexander Calder hard at work in his studio. He is most famous for inventing the mobile. No, not the car. Mobile as in the sculpture.

"Calder in His Roxbury Studio, 1963." This photograph is of American sculptor Alexander Calder hard at work in his studio. He is most famous for inventing the mobile. No, not the car. Mobile as in the sculpture.

Inge briefly married British journalist Lionel Burch and move to London in 1951. That same year she picked up her camera again. She applied for an apprenticeship with Simon Guttman, editor of Picture Post and manager of Report picture agency. After several months of paper pushing, Guttman sent Inge out to work. She sold her first works under the pseudonym Engi Tharom, her name spelled backwards.

This photograph was part of the "Last Journey" collection. This collection is a visual documentation of Inge's last visit to her ancestral home along the border of Syria.

This photograph was part of the "Last Journey" collection. This collection is a visual documentation of Inge's last visit to her ancestral home along the border of Syria.

Before her departure to London, Inge was invited to join the photographic cooperative, Magnum Photos. Upon her divorce from Burch, Inge moved back to Paris to pursue photography. One of her first assignments with magnum was to document London inhabitants, specifically those living in Soho and Mayfair. One of Inge’s most famous photographs came from that assignment, the portrait of Mrs. Evelyn Nash. The photo send Inge’s career into overdrive. During the late 1950s she traveled across the globe and covered stories in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the United States, and South America for publications like Holiday, Paris Match, and Vogue.

"6:30 am, Chang An Avenue, Beijing." This is a photograph taken as one of images featured in Inge's "China" collection.

"6:30 am, Chang An Avenue, Beijing." This is a photograph taken as one of images featured in Inge's "China" collection.

Outside of the print arena, Inge’s work also got her onto movie sets. She got her start through movie director John Huston. Inge ended up working on several of his films, Moulin Rouge and The Unforgiven included. Inge was also present on the set of The Misfits starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. While on set Inge became close to Arthur Miller, a screenplay writer. Mr. Miller was better known as Mr. Monroe at the time. He was married to Marilyn. Apparently Arthur was quite the ladies man. He cheated on his first wife with Marilyn and eventually left his first wife to marry Marilyn. He then divorced Marilyn and married Inge less than a year later. Uh. Yeah. About that.

This photograph was taken behind the scenes at the filming of "The Misfits" in Reno, Nevada. Magnum Photos' photographers were the only photographers allowed on set during the filming of the movie.

This photograph was taken behind the scenes at the filming of "The Misfits" in Reno, Nevada. Magnum Photos' photographers were the only photographers allowed on set during the filming of the movie.

Inge and Arthur moved to the United States with their two children in the early 1960s. The two worked hand-in-hand, side-by-side for the rest of their lives together. Arthur wrote and Inge illustrated with her photography. Inge spent her final years working with Arthur as well as becoming the go to girl for celebrity photography on a private level. Ingeborg Mörath Miller died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 78. Inge lived her life to the fullest and has the photo documentation to prove it. She feared nothing and never doubted her abilities. I am not on the same journey. Attempting to make my dreams come true by trusting in my talents. Hopefully I will end up half as successful and happy as Inge.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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