Inge Morath was born in Graz, Austria, in 1923. After studying languages in Berlin, she became a translator, then a journalist and the Austrian editor for Heute, an Information Service Branch publication based in Munich.
A friend of photographer Ernst Haas, she wrote articles to accompany his photographs and was invited by Robert Capa and Haas to Paris to join the newly founded Magnum agency as an editor and researcher. She began photographing in London in 1951, and joined Magnum Photos as a photographer in 1953. While working on her own first assignments, Morath also assisted Henri Cartier-Bresson during 1953-54, becoming a full member in 1955.
In the following years, Morath traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Her special interest in the arts found expression in photographic essays published by a number of leading magazines. After her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller in 1962, Morath settled in New York and Connecticut. She first visited the USSR in 1965. In 1972 she studied Mandarin and obtained a visa to China, making the first of many trips to the country in 1978.
Morath was at ease anywhere. Some of her most important work consists of portraits, but of passers-by as well as celebrities.
Inge Morath died in New York City on 30 January 2002.
Cartier-Bresson was Magnum’s professor of photography. He taught Morath systematically, and she considered him “the hardest taskmaster.” Editing his contact sheets in her first years with Magnum had been an important part of this education, because doing so allowed her to examine the images in the sequence that he made them, to see his “rigorous pursuit of an event in clear geometric compositions.”
Decades later, she summarized her process by writing, “I learned how to photograph myself before I ever took a camera into my hand.” She would practice “without a camera, with one eye closed and one open watching the street.”
Learning From The Master (Linda Gordon on magnumphotos.com)