Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti

Patricia Albers, Author Clarkson N Potter Publishers $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-609-60069-6
Art historians have called Tina Modotti (1896-1942) ""the best-known unknown photographer of the 20th century."" She also acted in silent films in Hollywood, went to Mexico with Edward Weston in 1922, was a nurse in Spain's Civil War and a prominent Communist, antifascist and internationalist. Partner to equally extraordinary men, friend to the most creative minds of her generation, she died alone in a taxi cab at the age of 46. Shadows, Fire, Snow is her first truly satisfying biography. Patricia Albers has built upon Mildred Constantine's Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life and Margaret Hooks's Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary, but hers is a more deftly researched book that takes greater risks. In tightly written passages--almost too dense at times--she beautifully evokes pivotal scenes in Modotti's artistic and political development, revealing her generosity of spirit and the passionate commitment to her ideals that kept her moving from country to country and eventually drove her to give up her art. This is a biography divided by place--Italy, Austria, Hollywood, Mexico City, Berlin, Moscow, Madrid--and about a woman who longed to be rooted to a place, but who couldn't allow herself to settle down. Albers's understanding of this contradiction provides the narrative tension that makes this biography such riveting reading (and great film material). Throughout Modotti's short life, she counted among her friends and co-workers Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, American writer John Dos Passos and Russian revolutionary and feminist Alexandra Kollontai, among many others. Modotti's photographs were often documentary in nature, what Carleton Beals called seeking the ""perfect snapshot."" Albers's rendition of Modotti's life goes a long way toward allowing us to understand this extraordinary woman. 60 photos not seen by PW. Agent, Laurie Fox of the Linda Chester Literary Agency. Foreign rights sold in Germany. (Apr.) FYI: In March, St. Martin's is publishing Tina Modotti: A Life, translated by Patricia J. Duncan.
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 397 pages - 978-0-520-23514-4
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 397 pages - 978-0-520-92921-0
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