Self-Portrait in Mirrors, Paris
American, born Germany, 1899–1998
Ilse Bing received her first camera as a teenager and continued to explore the medium as a complement to her doctoral studies in art history. By 1929, she decided to pursue photography professionally and moved from Frankfurt to Paris, where she quickly established herself as a leading photojournalist. A highly experimental printer, she was also among the earliest photographers to adopt the newly introduced 35 mm Leica camera, whose small size and fast shutter allowed her to experiment boldly with angles, cropping, and movement. Bing made numerous self-portraits, including this famous rendering of herself in mirrors, a complex and dazzling image that shows her with her revered Leica. As she later put it, “I felt the camera grew as an extension of my eyes and moved with me.” After the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, Bing emigrated to New York but struggled to establish herself professionally. By 1959 she had stopped making work altogether, and it was not until decades later that her extraordinary talent was recognized and her work entered museums around the world.