Fr : version française / En: english version

mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Asphalt layers, Paris

Gisèle Freund

Asphalt layers, Paris - Gisèle Freund

gelatin silver print
40cm x 50cm
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou
© CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN / Adam Rzepka

View this work in The Street exhibition

The artist

Gisela Freund was born in Berlin in 1908 to a middle-class family. Her father was a keen art collector. He gave his daughter a camera for her high-school graduation, before she went on to study sociology.

Her Jewish background and socialist beliefs led her to leave for Paris in 1933, where she finished her studies and published a thesis on French photography in the 19th century. While in Paris, she frequented and photographed writers, many of whom gained fame, including Joyce, Malraux, Michaux, Sartre & de Beauvoir, Gide, Huxley and Beckett.

When the war broke out, she fled to Argentina, where she documented Patagonia. After the conflict, she joined the Magnum agency, from which she was fired under the McCarthy era for her alleged Communist sympathies.

In 1968, she was the first photographer to show at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. François Mitterrand asked her to be his official photographer following his election to the presidency in 1981. The assignment was her last work as a photographer. She was awarded the Grand Prix National des Lettres, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, and died in the year 2000, leaving 300 photographs to the French state.