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Fondazione Palazzo Ducale Genova

The poetry of the istant

Sabine Weiss, who recently passed away at the age of 97, was the doyenne of French humanist photography, which brought together photographers such as Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, Edouard Boubat or Brassaï. She was one of the women photographers worldwide whose career covered the longest timespan. 

Born Sabine Weber in Saint Gingolph, Switzerland in 1924, at 18 she apprenticed at a studio in Geneva before becoming German photographer Willy Maywald’s assistant in 1946 in Paris. Three years later she went freelance after meeting American painter Hugh Weiss. The couple moved into a small house in western Paris. It was in the creative and exuberant atmosphere of this workshop and curiosity cabinet, where painting and photography, work, family life and friendship mingled, that all her works presented in the exhibition would be created. 

In 1952, Sabine Weiss joined the Rapho agency and her personal work was soon exhibited in the United States. Three of her photographs were included in the famous “The Family of Man” exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) in 1955 and she started collaborating on a regular basis with magazines such as “The New York Times Magazine”, “Life”, “Newsweek”, “Vogue”, “Le Ore”, “Paris Match”, “Esquire” and “Holiday”. Until the 2000s, Sabine Weiss has worked continuously for international illustrated press, as well as for numerous institutions and brands. 

By the late 1970s, the general public, the festivals and the institutions were showing a growing enthusiasm for post-war humanist photography and Sabine Weiss was in demand for exhibitions and retrospective books. This encouraged her to resume her personal research in black and white. So she developed a new strand of work punctuated by trips to France, Egypt, India, Réunion, Bulgaria and Myanmar, often centered on the contemplative moments of human life. At the same time, tributes to her work grew in number, contributing to the aura of an independent and lively photographer, sensitive to human beings and their daily lives. In 2017, she donated her archives to the Photo Elysée museum in Lausanne. 

This exhibition sheds light on work that always sympathizes with human beings. Sabine Weiss has viewed every area of photography – reportage, illustration, fashion, advertising, portraits and personal work – as a challenge and a pretext for traveling and meeting people, a way of life and a means of self-expression. The exhibition is about the passion of a lifetime. 


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