TINA MODOTTI'S SHORT life could hardly have been more eventful, or more tragic. Best known as a photographer, she also worked briefly as an actress before leaving her adopted country, the USA, for revolutionary Mexico. There she photographed ordinary people, creating a small archive of iconic images, joined the vibrant artistic and political circle that gathered around the painter Diego Rivera, and became a committed and apparently unquestioning Communist.
Her photographic career spanned a relatively short period, from 1926 to 1930, and was not, by today's standards, productive: between 160 and 225 pictures, according to her latest biographer, Letizia Argenteri. Her first love died suddenly in Mexico City of smallpox, as Modotti hurried from California to be with him.