Audacity, humanity and humor: The work of Lisette Model

Though a more elusive artist than some of her students, photography teacher Lisette Model’s own work had a voice. “Their audacity, their humanity and humor are what make her images live on into our time. I believe these qualities were also some of the strengths she brought to her teaching — ‘shoot from the gut’ and so on,” Ann Thomas, senior curator of photography at the Canadian Photography Institute, who also wrote an extensive biography about Model, told In Sight.

Thomas curated a show of 71 photographs from the collection of 293 prints from the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, comprising Model’s early street photographs in Paris, emboldened portraits along the Promenade des Anglais, as well as her better-known images of Coney Island, Sammy’s Bar in New York and the Running Legs series. The exhibition, “Lisette Model: Photographs from the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada,” is on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art from April 24 through Oct. 21.

It is no secret her bold “from the gut” style greatly influenced her famed student, Diane Arbus. But Model preferred to remain more mysterious, presenting Thomas with a challenge when going through Model’s archive.

“She always claimed in interviews that she never took self-portraits and yet there was consistent evidence of her photographing herself in mirrors, especially when she was traveling. She never made prints of these images, but I found these negatives diaristic and quite touching. So I wrote about them in as clear and sensitive a manner as possible.”

More on In Sight:

A nostalgic look at New York’s subway through the eyes of legendary photographer Helen Levitt

Stanley Kubrick’s little-known life as a still photographer

An outsider’s view of New York City’s Harlem in the 1980s

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.