Tag Archives: Tina Modotti

Hands of a Puppeteer

modotti hands of puppeteer

Italian-born Tina Modotti (1896-1942), a committed Communist and ground-breaking photographer, took images of working people in Mexico in the 1920s and 30s in a refreshingly non-documentary and aesthetic manner. Hands were a particular preoccupation of hers. Hands of a Puppeteer (1929), whose subject comes from a popular form of Mexican entertainment, is an intriguing, artful composition that blends formal elements and political concerns. Modotti’s skill as an artist is revealed in, say, the dramatic contrasts of shadow and light, the criss-crossing diagonals of the arms/hands and wooden puppetry bars, and the textural detail of the strings draped across hands or the man’s arm-hair and veins. But as a politically engaged artist, Modotti would have been aware of how the idea of puppetry could be a social and political metaphor – the hands symbolising those in power, pulling the strings of the powerless. At the time there was growing disillusionment in Mexico concerning reform or emancipation for ethnic groups and the working-classes. Hands of a Puppeteer (1929) hints at this political message in a non-didactic way while offering an original, striking image.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts, Black and white photography, Hands, Mexico, Photography