Queen of the Leica

A very interesting report about the photographer Ilse Bing (1899-1998), which came to be known as “Queen of the Leica” in the 1930s

In Three Days of the Condor, a CIA agent played by Robert Redford says that photographic work of his new acquaintance (Faye Dunaway) epitomize desolation. When I look at Ilse Bing photographs, I remember this phrase. Some of her shots have an air of poetic desolation about them.

Ilse Bing (1899-1998)was a leader among those who made Paris the center of modern photography in the 1930s. Moving in a milieu that included the likes of Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, and Brassaï, she came to be known as “Queen of the Leica” for her influential mastery of the hand-held camera that revolutionised the medium in the period.

Born into a bourgeois Jewish family in Frankfurt, Ilse Bing seemed set for an academic career but abandoned it to devote herself to photography.

Moving to Paris in 1930, Bing instantly loved the city. She participated in the avante-garde movement that affected all aspects of creative life: exhibitions, journals, performances. The leaders were largely self-taught émigré artists such as Man Ray, André Kertesz, Paver Tchelitchev, Germaine Krull, and Florence Henri. Tchelitchev commissioned Bing to photograph a ballet Errante, using only ambient light. The results were acclaimed. The Leitz Corporation was so impressed that they sent her new wide-angle and telephoto lenses for experimentation. She worked for the fashion designer Schiaparelli, Harper’s Bazaar, Vu, and various weekly newspapers.

read more: Queen of the Leica – Dieselpunks.

About the Author

Leon Baumgardt is a passionate amateur photographer and studied photo engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. During his studies he works as an editorial assistant for the Leica User Forum.

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