"SHADOWS, FIRE, SNOW" by Patricia Albers


The Life of Tina Modotti
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A finely detailed portrait, full of shadows and highlights, of the mysterious woman who was actress, well-regarded photographer, Communist secret agent and compassionate humanitarian. An earlier biography of Tina Modotti (Tina Modotti: A Life, p. 189) did little more than roll the credits on the story of a beautiful Italian immigrant to San Francisco who became a pioneer in documenting the lives of Mexican workers and farmers with her Graflex camera. Art historian Albers has meticulously researched Modotti's life, from a poverty-stricken childhood in northern Italy, to a glamorous turn in Hollywood, and after moving to Mexico, a growing commitment to photography under the tutelage of her lover, photographer Edward Weston. After Weston returned to California, Modotti was introduced to Communism by artist Xavier Guerrero, and she joined the party. Although her reputation as a photographer was growing, so was her reputation as Communist agitator, and by early 1930, she was deported from Mexico, with Mussolini's blackshirts also on her trail for antifascist activity. She landed in Moscow, working for Red Aid, an international relief organization, but also a cover for assignments delivering money and messages to party members throughout Europe. In Moscow she began an 11-year sexual and political liaison with the notorious Vittorio Vidali, the source of many not always accurate stories of Modotti's later life. Dispatched to the Spanish Civil War together, they never returned to Moscow, but instead found their way back to Mexico (with false papers). Modotti died somewhat mysteriously there in 1942, ending a life marked with tragedy and scandal, but also one dedicated first to art and then to humanity. The title of the book is from a poem written for Modotti's memorial service by Pablo Neruda. An absorbing, if occasionally overwrought story (Modotti seemed to produce that effect in her admirers) of both Tina Modotti and the tumultuous times she lived in. (60 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 14th, 1999
ISBN: ---
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Clarkson Potter