Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Road to Reno: Inge Morath Tour Blueprint

Introduction, from The Road to Reno: Inge Morath, by John P. Jacob, The Inge Morath Foundation

Inge Morath was born in Graz, Austria, in 1923. She studied languages in Berlin, and after the Second World War became Austrian editor for Heute magazine. A friend of photographer Ernst Haas, Morath wrote articles to accompany his photographs. Together, they were invited to Paris by Robert Capa to join the recently founded Magnum Photos, where she worked as an editor. Morath began photographing in 1951, and assisted Henri Cartier-Bresson as a researcher in 1953-54. She became a member of Magnum in 1955.

In the following years, Morath traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. Her knowledge of history and facility with languages, including Russian, Romanian, and Mandarin as well as English, Spanish, and French, provided Morath with a unique perspective into the people and places she visited. After her marriage to Arthur Miller in 1962, Morath settled in New York and Connecticut. She and Miller traveled to the USSR together in 1965, and in 1978 they made the first of many trips to the People’s Republic of China. In the 1980s and ‘90s, Morath continued to pursue both assignments and independent projects. She died in 2002, leaving a photographic archive encompassing more than fifty years of her life.

Inge Morath was a serious and gifted reporter who could not resist infusing a touch of surrealism into her photographs. This playful element lifted her work above mere reportage by revealing the mysterious at work within the ordinary and the everyday. It has been the distinguishing feature by which Morath’s photographs have, until now, been recognized. Another gift is her feeling for places: her pictures of […]artists’ studios and cemetery memorials, are permeated with the spirit of invisible people still present.

[…] Morath carried her portable typewriter wherever she traveled, as indispensable as her cameras. Words, as much as film, were her medium. Attempting to be true to both her process and her voice, [this exhibition] follows Morath’s markings on her contact sheets to determine the selection and the flow of images, while leaving her non-native English, with its typographic charms and frequent structural indulgences, intact. In combining the three distinct elements of her work, images, journal writings, and caption notes, The Road to Reno presents Morath’s work as she created it: as a story.

What is most unique about this particular story is that it has never before been publicly told. It is the story of Morath’s encounter with her own future; with Arthur Miller who would become her husband, and with the United States, which would become her adoptive homeland. Until recently, Morath’s American road trip was unknown outside the circle of her family and friends. […]Inge Morath, setting out with Henri Cartier-Bresson (on assignment across the country to the film set of The Misfits) defines the vertices of her route simply: 18 days; New York to Reno; a friend, camera and a typewriter. […] Morath’s 18 days on the road stitch a trajectory through July and through 1960, leaving room between her careful photographs and her astute, poetic written observations […]

Exhibition and Tour Details

The Road to Reno: Inge Morath exhibition is organized by The Inge Morath Foundation, created by her family members and Magnum Photos in Morath’s name to document, promote, and care for the work created during her 60-year career. In its first several weeks, The Road to Reno: Inge Morath exhibition has proven to be much more interesting to, and popular among, visitors than we had anticipated that it would. As a result, there is reason to consider making the exhibition a fairly significant portion of your tours, particularly after “Andy Warhol’s Dream America” closes in May but before “Deborah Butterfield: Horses” opens in mid-June.


You’ll find the exhibition in the third floor feature gallery north, where the Voces Latinas exhibition was located previously. The exhibition tells the story of Morath’s and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s trip across the country to document the filming of the 1961 film The Misfits, directed by John Huston, written by Arthur Miller, and starring Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach, and Thelma Ritter. Morath and Cartier-Bresson set out from New York and spent 18 days traversing the U.S., heading south and eventually west before ending in Reno in July, 1960. The exhibition is laid out chronologically and counterclockwise—that is, you’ll encounter the earliest images in their trip first (they’re in the hallway) and the final images, documenting the actual sets of the filming of The Misfits, to the left of the main portion of the gallery.

Tour Framework

Explain that the exhibition contains photography created by Inge Morath, who was given the opportunity to travel across the country to document the filming of the 1960 film The Misfits. Explain that Morath had begun her photography career in Europe in 1950-51, and then became affiliated with the Magnum Photos agency herself in 1955, with other well-known documentary photographers of the mid-twentieth century, including Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Explain that Arthur Miller, who Morath married in 1962, had written the screenplay for The Misfits for his then-wife Marilyn Monroe.

Invite guests to consider the impact of Morath’s photography: how does she depict the places that she visits on her way to Reno? Does she seem to be creating a portrait of America? What kind of portrait?

Explain that Morath not only documented the trip and the sets in her photgraphy, but that she also kept a journal of type-written notes. In fact, Morath, after marrying Miller in 1962, was a prolific collaborator with her husband—they created a number of book projects together, in addition to the more than a dozen photography books of her own.

Ask guests to consider Morath’s eye for the mundane and humorous in everyday life. Do / can they get a sense of Morath’s sense of humor from her photographs? How? While humorous, even ironic at times, are they also respectful of their subjects? How can you tell?

Ask guests to look closely at the contact sheets (a reference print of film negatives produced by laying negatives directly on print paper and then exposing the paper to light, resulting in a actual-size print of the negative strip including the frame numbers which appear along the edge of the film stock). What kinds of information is documented on the contact sheets? What does it suggest about how Morath made choices about which photographs would become her final prints?

Ask guests to consider whether Morath seems to try to define her subjects with her photographs, or whether she seems to capture fleeting moments that pass quickly.