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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Gisèle Freund

Dates:  1912, 19 December - 2000, 31 March
Born:  Germany, Berlin
Died:  France, Paris
Active:  France
 
  
German and French photographer and writer noted for her portraits.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Gisèle Freund
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

 
  
Gisèle Freund studied sociology and history of art at the University of Freiburg before moving to Frankfurt in 1931 to study with the famous sociologists Karl Mannheim and Norbert Elias. Her father had given her a Leica and Elias – noting the ever-present camera – suggested that she study 19th-century photography. Freund was also active in socialist circles and in 1933 she was forced to flee to Paris. There she continued her studies, completing what was to be the first PhD thesis ever written on photography, and started to take photographs for a living. She became known for her portraits of writers (from 1938 often taken with colour film) and published reportage in Life, Picture Post, Vu and Paris Match magazines.
 
On the eve of the German occupation of Paris, Freund – a Jew and an anti-fascist – was again forced into exile, first to the south of France and then to Argentina. She became a member of Magnum in 1947 and covered Latin America for the agency until 1954. She returned to Paris and continued her career as a writer, photographic reporter and photographer of literary figures. In 1974 her PhD thesis was translated into English and published as the influential book Photography and Society. 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
Wrote the first Ph.D. thesis on photography. Known for her direct, naturalistic, tightly cropped portraits of France’s literati (from 1938 often taken in color) and published reportage in LIFE, Paris Match, Picture Post, and Vu magazines. Her expanded Ph.D. thesis was later published as Photography and Society, which examined the history of photography in terms of the social forces that produced and molded it. 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Thumbnail
Yvette Troispoux
Agathe Gaillard with Gisele Freund 
n.d.
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

Visual indexes

 
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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.212-213 
  
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Gisèle Freund.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.144-145 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Bauret, Gabriel (ed. and text) 2001 Color Photography (New York: Assouline) [Includes example color photographs by Gisèle Freund] 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
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