Ilse Bing Self-Portrait with Leica, Paris 1931
Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction

Ilse Bing Self-Portrait with Leica, Paris 1931

The legendary German born photographer, Ilse Bing, gives special respect to the Leica camera in her self-portrait, as the Leica was the tool of her photographs, she positioned the camera, so that it is as prominent as her face. In addition, the mirror and black curtain in the background play an important role for the composition. The mirror element accent the symbolism of a photograph within the photograph. Together with the focused starring of the subject, it intensifies the existential doubt of the young artist. This photograph has long held its place among the icons of the New Vision; it also represents the yearly days an epoch in which women from prominent families did everything the can in order to accent on their social independence – using the photographic medium, among a few others.

Ilse Bing was born on 23 March 1899 into a grand-bourgeois Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, she was one of the most prominent and influential personalities who turned the 1930s Paris into a center of photographic modernism. Her Self-Portrait with Leica of 1931 is a complex self-image, reflecting not just the photographer, but also the photographic idiom of the avant-garde between the wars. The question underlying the auto-portrait is that of her position in the context of creation and influence. Ilse Bing poses with her Leica II – presumably this is her first Leica I, purchased in 1929 and eventually factory converted to Leica II. With this camera she created atmospherically dense, virtuous photographs. The great Emmanuel Sougez called Ilse Bing the “queen of the Leica”.