She focussed her lens on human suffering

Martine Franck, the world famous photographer and co-founder and president of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris, died on August 17. She was 74. Ms. Franck has been ill for some time.

She was the muse and second wife of legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Ms. Franck was laid to rest in a very private funeral on Saturday in the quiet village of Luberon in south-west France, where her husband lies buried. She married him after his divorce from his first wife, the Javanese dancer, Ratna, better known as Retna Mohini.

An elegant, brooding beauty and a stunningly good photographer in her own right, she became a member of Magnum, the photo agency set up in 1947 by five photographers, including Frank Capa and Cartier-Bresson.

Martine Franck shot some memorable pictures in China, Japan and India which she visited many times in the company of her husband and then alone after his death. She is best known for her documentation of human suffering and her portraits of writers and artists.

Last spring, the Claude Bernard gallery in Paris, which was the first to exhibit artists like David Hockney or Francis Bacon, did a solo exhibition of her work. She was famous for her series of portraits of non-French artists like Marc Chagall, Fernando Botero, Miquel Barcelo and others whom she snapped in their Parisian workshops.

“I am shy. I find it very difficult to talk and to approach strangers. But I did my best to put these artists at ease,” she said in an interview last year. And yet, her approach to these painters and sculptors, while uncompromising, was marked by a certain softness and tenderness that masked their vulnerability. “I had to keep in mind that they, like me, came from far away,” she said.

Ms. Franck was born in the Belgian town of Antwerp in 1938 but spent most of her childhood in Britain and the U.S. before studying Art History in Madrid and at the Louvre in Paris.

Magnum would not directly confirm Ms. Franck’s death. “The family has asked us not to give any information in order to preserve intimacy and organise the funeral in a discreet way,” a spokesperson for Magnum’s Paris office said.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 5:57:42 PM |

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