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Martine Barrat

1937 | Oran, Algeria
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French photographer and videographer.

An actor, a dancer and a stage director based in Paris during the 1960s, Martine Barrat moved to New York in 1968 after an invitation from the MaMa Experimental Theater Club found by Elle Stewart. There, she created a workshop for children in the Lower East Side combining theater, video and jazz. She progressively turned towards the image – video and 16mm film – which she would eventually entirely devote herself to. In the beginning of the 1970s, she began a video series about gang members from the South Bronx, a difficult neighbourhood in which she achieved eventual acceptance. From this important documentary project, which she worked on for several years, she created You Do the Crime, You Do the Time (1978), which won best documentary prize in Milan. Fascinated by the black neighbourhood where she also photographed the streets, boxing clubs and churches, she paid tribute to its dwellers – the elderly, musicians and children – with whom she spent much time over the course of several years. The retrospective Harlem in My Heart, presented at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris from 2007–2008 revealed the beauty of these poor and flamboyant heroes.

Also celebrated for her boxing photographs, she published the book Do or Die, prefaced by director Martin Scorsese. The power of the images, the ritualistic dimension of the sport, and the brotherhood that is pierced under the violence of fighting all deserve an enthusiastic response. The intensity of her photographs lies in the eyes. “Boxing is the only sport where the opponents look at each other in the eyes,” she states. We can thus understand her attraction for violent energy, whether it be in the ring, or in the ghettos of the South Bronx and Harlem, or even the Parisian Goutte-d’Or district, where she systematically goes to photograph the neighbourhood kids when she returns to France.

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Anne Reverseau

Translated from French by Katia Porro.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, After Church Service on 116th Street, 1985, gelatin silver print, 45.8 x 30.5 cm, Brooklyn Museum, © Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, Brighton Beach, Mother and Daughter on a Picnic, 1980, gelatin silver print, 26.7 x 38.7 cm, Brooklyn Museum, © Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, Harlem, Mabel Albert, Singer, 75 Years Old, 1982, gelatin silver print, 42.5 x 28.5 cm, Brooklyn Museum, © Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, Ismaël Gneco, La pesée, South Bronx, 1981, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, Mr. Jackson, at the Harlem Moon, 1983, gelatin silver print, 31 x 46.5 cm, MoMA, © Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, Paris, La Goutte D’or, Friends Playing, 1984, gelatin silver print, 45.4 x 30.5 cm, Brooklyn Museum, © Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Martine Barrat, Paris, La Goutte D’or, Mamadou, 1982, gelatin silver print, 31.1 x 45.8 cm, Brooklyn Museum, © Martine Barrat

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