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Lisette Model

Text from John Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art

"Henry Miller said of Brassai that his eye blinked at nothing, neither at beauty nor depravity. The eye of Lisette Model has been slightly more specialized. While one would not wish to label her favorite subjects depraved, it is certainly true that she has demonstrated no noticeable interest in anything resembling conventional beauty. Her most memorable photographs are of people whom one might suspect of being corrupt, mendacious, gluttonous, avaricious, hardhearted, or cruel. It is not easy to be sure whether Model's role as a photographer should be thought of as that of a good witch, exorcising evil with a camera, or more simply that of a collector gathering material for a catalogue of the deadly sins.

"The gambler, tanned and sleek and self-contained, waits in the afternoon sun for the adventure of the night. His relaxation is provisional, like a cat's; his eyes watch the photographer as they would watch the dealer or the croupier, alert for a hint of sleight of hand. His own hands are held appropriately close to the vest, cupped as though to gather in his counters.

"Model has made her photograph from very close, and from a low vantage point, which foreshortens the gambler's figure. It is an unfamiliar and menacing perspective. If she moves one step closer, he may kick the camera neatly from her hands."


 


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