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OBITUARY

06.01.2022

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The Swiss-French photographer's body of work spans no less than eight decades. Sabine Weiss worked as a reportage photographer, and also portrayed celebrities; her preference, however, was to capture normal people's everyday worlds. Interested in the lives and fates of her contemporaries, as well as things that are often forgotten, she looked for chance encounters and photographed small empathic moments, predominantly on the streets of her adopted home, Paris. Alongside Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, Édouard Boubat and Brassaï, she was considered one of the most important – and the last living – representatives of Photographie humaniste, a genre that is dedicated to people's life circumstances and daily situations. Consequently, this made her a precise chronicler and careful observer of social change, over the decades of her creativity.

Born Sabine Weber in 1924, close to Geneva, she owned her first camera at the age of twelve. After studying Photography in Geneva, she moved to Paris in 1946, where she had her first exhibition with the German fashion photographer, Willy Maywald. Starting in 1950, she began to work freelance for a number of French and international magazines, travelling on assignments all over the world. However, her life and her atelier were always centred in Paris. Converted from a repair shop building located on the Boulevard Murat in the Auteuil district, in 1950 the studio was opened by Weiss and her husband, the American painter Hugh Weiss (1925-2007). She lived in this sheltered backyard home until the end of her life.

Weiss's black and white images, photographed primarily with a Rolleiflex and a Leica, speak of universal human experiences; and children, in particular, were frequently a central feature. In interviews, she liked to say that she saw herself as a photo craftswoman, because: “I had to live off photography, right from the beginning; it was nothing artistic”. Even so, many of her pictures have long since left their daily context behind, appearing in numerous exhibitions and being published in photo books. In recent years, Weiss made numerous public appearances and was honoured with different awards. Last year, her work was on display at the Museon Arlaten in Arles, and a retrospective is planned for March, 2022, in Venice. Weiss became a French citizen in 1995, but she had already transferred her photographic archives to the Swiss Musée de l'Élysée in Lausanne, years ago. As her family have now announced, Sabine Weiss passed away in her home in Paris, on December 28, 2021. (Ulrich Rüter)

Sabineweissphotographe.com

Sabine Weiss was featured as a Leica Classic in issue 3/2018 of the LFI magazine.
Sabine Weiss © François Bouchon, Le Figaro
Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1954 © Sabine Weiss
Enfants prenant de l‘eau à la fontaine, rue des Terres-au-Curé, Paris, 1954 © Sabine Weiss
Garçon jouant, New York, États-Unis, 1955 © Sabine Weiss
Jeune mineur, Lens, 1955 © Sabine Weiss
Petite fille, petite arbre, Espagne,1981 © Sabine Weiss
Porte de Vanves, Paris,1952 © Sabine Weiss
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