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PASSINGS / Willy Ronis

French postwar photographer

September 19, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Willy Ronis, 99, the last of France's postwar greats of photography who captured the essence of Paris in black-and-white scenes of everyday life, died Sept. 12 at a Paris hospital, said Stephane Ledoux, president of the Eyedea photo agency.

Lovers, nudes and scenes from Paris streets, including "Bastille Lovers, Paris 1957," were the mainstay of Ronis' photographs, which reflect the so-called humanist school of photography.

Ronis, along with friend Robert Doisneau and photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, were among France's great photographers who emerged after World War II.

Photographs of eastern Paris, where Ronis lived, were collected in a book of the Belleville and Menilmontant neighborhoods that reached cult status in France. His photos of lovers against the Paris skyline or a nude at a wash basin also helped define him.

Born in Paris on Aug. 14, 1910, Ronis studied violin, but gave up a music career to take over the family photo studio when his father fell ill.

A month after his father died in 1936, Ronis did his first reportage, a Bastille Day parade. He worked steadily until World War II, when he joined the army. When the Nazis invaded France, Ronis, born to Jewish parents who had fled the pogroms, moved to unoccupied France.

Ronis later worked for numerous publications, including Life magazine, and collected a host of honors.

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