Modotti, Tina (1895–1942) By Caplow, Deborah
Tina Modotti, an Italian-born photographer who lived much of her life in the United States, was an actress in silent movies in Hollywood, and in Los Angeles joined a Bohemian circle that included photographer Edward Weston, who would become her lover. Together they moved to Mexico, where she worked as a photographer from 1923 to 1930; her career there, though brief, was highly influential. She and Weston acquainted themselves with the artists and writers of Mexico City, presented exhibitions, made portraits and photographed the works of the muralists. Her early photographs, such as Roses (1924), were influenced by Weston, but she combined his formalism with her leftist inclinations, creating images such as Worker Reading El Machete (1925), or Campesinos Reading El Machete (1929), which used contrasts of light and shadow and geometric design to deliver political messages. In 1929 Modotti’s companion at the time, Julio Antonio Mella, was murdered and she was accused of complicity in the crime. Although exonerated, she was charged with the attempted assassination of President-Elect Pascual Ortiz Rubio and deported in 1930. She lived in Moscow from 1930 to 1936, and worked as a nurse in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. After the war, she returned to Mexico and lived quietly until her death in 1942.