Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Willy Ronis, 1910-2009


French photographer Willy Ronis, known for his humanistic photographs of postwar France, died of natural causes at age 99 this September in Paris.

Influenced by black-and-white photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams, Ronis portrayed scenes of the common worker, factory strikes and everyday Parisian street life.

A native Parisian, Ronis was born in 1910 to a father who ran a photography studio and a mother who taught piano. Young Willy developed an interest in his father's studio as a teenager and, at the age of 22, took over the family business after his father became ill from cancer.

In 1936 Willy Ronis began freelancing for the Rapho agency, which is now part of the French photo agency Eyedea. He was later published in Life and Vogue magazines. Ronis received many awards throughout his career, including the Kodak prize in 1947, the Gold Medal at the Venice Biennale in 1957 and the Grand Prix des Arts et Lettres for photography in 1979 from the French Ministry of Culture.

Along with colleagues Robert Doisneau, Brassai and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ronis became part of the Groupe des XV, a faction of 15 revolutionary writers and artists who dedicated themselves to promoting photography as a true form of artistic expression.

Ronis was awarded the Lucie Lifetime Achievement award in 2006, and was also named an Officer in France's prestigious National Order of Merit and a Commander of Arts and Letters.

Ronis' archive will be donated to the French state, an arrangement that he established in 1983.