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 Martine Franck  (1938 - 2012)

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Lived/Active: France/Belgium      Known for: documentary portrait and genre photography

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Following is The New York Times obituary of the photographer:

Martine Franck, Documentary Photographer, Dies at 74
By LESLIE KAUFMAN
Published: August 22, 2012

Martine Franck, a photographer whose documentary-style portraits of artists and marginalized populations alike helped her rise into the highest echelons of her profession while fiercely protecting the artistic legacy of her husband, Henri Cartier-Bresson, died last Thursday in Paris. She was 74.

The cause was leukemia, her sister-in-law, Louise Baring, said.

Ms. Franck was an exemplar of a school of postwar photography that aimed to capture the real world. Her style was to work outside the studio, to use a 35-millimeter Leica camera, and she preferred black-and-white film. She was drawn to fragile populations like Tibetan boys who had been selected as reincarnated lamas and a dying Gallic community on Tory Island, off Ireland.

She also returned over and over to photographing well-known artists, among them the painter Marc Chagall and the sculptor Étienne Martin. The poet Seamus Heaney was also a subject.

“I think our collective sense of the artistic and intellectual life of Paris in the second half of the 20th century has been substantially enriched by” Ms. Franck’s portraits, said Peter Galassi, who was director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art until last year.

Ms. Franck was born to Evelyn and Louis Franck in Antwerp, Belgium, on April 2, 1938. The family moved almost immediately after her birth to London, where her father worked as a banker. He was also a passionate art collector and took her to galleries when she was young. She received a degree in art history from the École du Louvre in Paris — studies, she said later, that convinced her that she did not want an academic career.

She was a busy freelance photographer in Paris in 1966, on assignment for magazines like Vogue, Life and Sports Illustrated, and the official photographer for the Théâtre du Soleil, when she met her future husband. Thirty years her senior, Mr. Cartier-Bresson was already internationally renowned as the father of photojournalism and a founder of Magnum Photos, a cooperative agency whose members have included Robert and Cornell Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Bruce Davidson, Philippe Halsman, W. Eugene Smith and Eve Arnold, who died in January.
“His opening line was, ‘Martine, I want to come and see your contact sheets,’ ” she said of Mr. Cartier-Bresson in a 2010 television interview with Charlie Rose. They were married in 1970.

At first it was difficult for Ms. Franck to preserve a separate identity, but she was determined to do so. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph of London in 2007, she said that she and her husband rarely discussed photography or worked together.

“He was both critical and inspirational, but we had very different working methods,” she said. “Henri preferred to discover things without a plan, while I like to find and develop a particular theme.”

Ms. Franck had limited her career so she could manage Mr. Cartier-Bresson’s affairs and rear their daughter, Ms. Baring said, so she was not widely recognized until later in life. She was one of the few women accepted at Magnum as a full member, in 1983; another milestone was her first solo show, at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in 1998.

Whatever the challenges of living with Mr. Cartier-Bresson’s fame, Ms. Franck remained devoted to his work and legacy. She was the force behind the creation of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, a private exhibition space in Paris that houses his archive and polices how his images are used by others.

Mr. Cartier-Bresson died in 2004, and Ms. Franck never remarried. She is survived by her brother, Eric Franck, who owns a fine-art gallery in London; her daughter, Mélanie; and three grandchildren.

Ms. Franck told The Daily Telegraph that she had been attracted to photography because she was shy. “I realized that photography was an ideal way of telling people what is going on without having to talk,” she said.

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