Willy Ronis was a photographer from France, renowned for his images of post-war life in Provence and Paris. Ronis was born in 1910 and died in 2009. His mother was a piano instructor and his father had his own studio in Montmartre. Earlier, Ronis was interested in music and dreamt of becoming a composer. In 1932, after the forced service in military, Ronis violin classes had to hold since his father was suffering from cancer and it was required from Ronis to run the photography studio of his family. Four years later, his father passed away and as a result the business closed down. At this time, Willy Ronis became interested in photography and started working as a freelancer. He joined Rapho, a photography agency, with Ergy Landau, Robert Doisneau, and Brassaï. The initial photos by him were published in Regard Magazine.
Willy Ronis was inspired by the works of Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz, as he was exploring the world of photography. He became the first photographer from France to work with Life. In 1953, photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Izis, Robert Doisneau, Brassaï, and Ronis were included in an exhibition by Edward Steichen, called Five French Photographers. The exhibition took place at Museum of Modern Art. After two years, Ronis’s work was included in the retrospective, Family of Man. In 1957, he was given a Gold Medal by Venice Biennale.
During the same time in the 50s, Ronis began teaching at the School of Fine Arts in Aix en Provence, and Marseilles. In 1979, he was given the Grand Prix des Arts et Lettres award for his photography by the Culture Minister. In 1981, Sur le fil du hasard, his photo-book won him the Prix Nadar award.
One of Ronis 1936 eminent photographs, Nu provençal, represented his wife, Marie Anne Lansiaux as the subject. Marie Anne did militant painting in favor of the Communists. This image was published around the world and the duo believed it to be a successful photo. Later in Marie Anne’s life, Ronis took pictures of her while she suffered with Alzheimer.
Much later in Ronis’s life, he produced fashion and nude work for magazines like Le Jardin des modes and Vogue. These photos reflected Ronis’s thoughts about natural beauty, as well as his appreciation towards it. In addition to magazine work, Ronis also did work for books published by Taschen.
Despite competition from other photographers, Willy Ronis is termed as the Paris photographer equivalent to excellence, by the Oxford Companion to the Photograph. In 2001, he stopped working as a photographer. This was because he needed a cane for walking and it became difficult for him to carry a camera along with him.
Between 2005 and 2006, the Paris city presented a grand retrospective of Ronis’s work that attracted a huge audience of 500,000 guests. Another exhibition of Ronis took place in 2009 in Recontres d’Arles.
Among the many works of Willy Ronis, some include Place Vendome (1947); Le Petit Parisien (1952); Les Amoureux de la Bastille (1957); Rue Miller (1934); Deena de dos (1955); Belleville (1959); Devoirs de Vacances (1945); Vieu Ferrette (1954) among many more.
Ronis worked in black and white even after the advent of color photography and hi-tech technology. Through his work, Ronis showed life in France with subjects ranging from a young boy to an old man, a single woman to a couple kissing.