Ilse Bing (American/German, 1899–1998), was a leading photojournalist and commercial photographer during the pre- and inter-War period in Paris. Bing was born in Frankfurt into a Jewish family who encouraged her intellectual education, as well as her education in arts and music. In the 1920s, while studying art history and mathematics at the universities in Frankfurt and Vienna, Bing purchased a Leica camera and immediately became intrigued with the world of photography. She rapidly became involved in the field, and got commissioned work for magazines such as Das Illustriete Blatt, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Her unique photographic work has earned her the title "Queen of the Leica" from her well-known artist peers.

In 1936, Ilse Bing was given a solo exhibition at the June Rhodes Gallery in New York, where she stayed for three months. Bing was impressed with New York City lifestyle and eventually, after marrying pianist Konrad Wolff in 1937, immigrated and lived there until her death in 1998.

Bing is known for her experimentations with photographic techniques, and for being among the first to use electronic flash, solarize her negatives, and to photograph at night. In 1957, she switched from black and white to color photography, and in 1959, abandoned photography completely. In 1976, she was rediscovered as a photographer by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Timeline

1899
Born in Frankfurt to affluent bourgeois family.
1920
Enrolls in the University of Frankfurt to study mathematics and physics but soon changes to art history eventually pursuing a doctoral degree.
1928
To illustrate her dissertation on an architect, she takes up photography and begins using a 9x12c, Voigtlander plate camera. She eventually abandons her dissertation to pursue a career as photographer.
1929
Purchases a Leica camera enjoying the freedom it provides
1929–1930
Her photographs are reproduced in photo-essays for Frankfurter Illustriete’s weekly supplement Das Illustriete Blatt.
1930
Moves to Paris in the Fall.
1932
New York gallerist Julien Levy includes Bing’s work in his seminal exhibition
1934
Experiments with solarization (which she discovered independently of Man Ray) to create a dream-like night-time atmosphere of statuaries, lights, and water.
1936
At the invitation of Carmel Snow she visits the US where she meets Alfred Stieglitz. This same year she has solo exhibitions at Galerie Chasseurs d’Images, Paris and Musée des Arts Décoratifs
1937
Marries pianist and musicologist Konrad Wolff. Her photographs are included in New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s “History of Photography” exhibition.
1930–1939
Her portraits, fashion and architectural studies are published in VU, Harper’s Bazaar, Le Monde, L’Illustration, Illustré, and Regards. Her work is included in the Groupe Annuel des Photographes at La Pleiade in 1931, 1932, 1933, and 1938 alongside that of Germaine Krull, André Kertesz, Florence Henri, Emmanuel Sougez, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Despite this she does not communicate or work closely with other photographers.
1940
She and her husband are interned in Paris as enemy aliens and in 1941 they immigrate to New York.
1947
Starts using electronic flash and larger format Rollei camera.
1957
Begins working exclusively in color until stopping completely in 1959.
1959
Quits photography and devotes herself to poetry which she composes in English, French, and German. Makes collages and drawings which incorporate photographic elements
1976
Her first solo exhibition in 17 years, Lee Witkin Gallery, New York. The show revived and sparked a new interest in her work.
1976
Published Numbers in Images and is rediscovered as a photographer by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
1982
Publishes Women from Childhood to Old Age.
1985
A retrospective Ilse Bing: Three Decades of Photography was shown at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
1987
The retrospective then moves to the International Center of Photography in New York, and later to the Kunstverein in Frankfurt.
1998
Dies in New York on the March 10 at the age of 98.

Exhibitions

2007
“Paris in Transition: Photographs from the National Gallery”, National Gallery, Washington, DC - USA
2005
“Town and Country: Modern Life in America” Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA- USA
2004–2005
“Ilse Bing: Queen of Leica” Victoria & Albert Museum, London- UK (solo)
2004
“French Photography of the1930s and 1940s”, Zabriskie Gallery, NY – USA
“My America: Art from the Jewish Museum Collection, 1900- 1955” Jewish Museum, New York, NY – USA. Traveled: Memorial Art Museum, Rochester University, Rochester, NY- USA
1999
“Insight: Women’s Photographs From the Collection of the George Eastman House”, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, NY - USA
1998
“ilse Bing”, Edwynn Houk, New York, NY – USA (solo)
1996
“History of Women Photographers” New York Public Library, NY – USA
“Ilse Bing-Fotografien 1929-1956” Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, Aachen- Germany (solo)
1994
“Ilse Bing: Moulin Rouge, Paris, 1931”, Houk Friedman, NY _ USA (solo)
“Ilse Bing: Vintage Photographs”, Galerie Zur Stockeregg, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
1992
“Ilse Bing: Frankfurt, Paris, New York”, Houk Friedman, NY – USA (solo)
1989
“The New Vision: Photography Between the World Wars, Ford Motor Company Collection”, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY - USA
“Ilse Bing: Germany, Paris, New York”, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Chicago, IL- USA (solo)

Literature

Ilse Bing: Through the Looking Glass. Larisa Dryansky. Photographs edited by Edwynn Houk: Abrams, New York, 2006
Photographers Encyclopedia International, 1839 to the present, A-K. Michele and Michel Auer. Editions Camera Obscura: Hermance, Switzerland, 1985
Ilse Bing: Three Decades of Photography. Nancy C. Barrett. New Orleans Museum of Art. 1985
Ilse Bing: Vision of a Century. Edwynn Houk Gallery: New York, NY, 1998
Ilse Bing: Paris 1931-1952. Françoise Reynaud, Bernard de Montgolfier. 1987. Paris Musées, Muse Carnalvalet.