Ilse Bing

by Wendy Jewell

The artistic photographer and poet, Ilse Bing, was born on March 23, 1899, in Frankfurt, Germany. She grew up in a family where arts and sciences were venerated. Known in Europe and New York in the 1930's and 40's as "The Queen of the Leica," her poetry and images stand the test of time. Ilse Bing died on March 10, 1998, just short of her 99th birthday, and celebrations in honor of her work took place throughout the year.

getting 90
is just another day
in striving to climb
the infinite ladder
of our dreams

Ilse Bing
March 1989

Autoportrait dans Miroirs 1931

Some of the poems that are included in this tribute to Ilse were from a collection of poems entitled:


which was published to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of the poet by her friends and admirers.

Ilse Bing
Danseuse de cancan au Moulin Rouge 1931


the invisible
has to be pictured
the unspeakable
has to be said
the unthinkable
has to be dreamed
the intangible
has to be held tight
but do not touch it with your finger

July 16, 1982

ILSE BING wrote in the introduction of her book:

ILSE BING 1929/1955
WOMEN from the cradle to old age

When I was a little girl, children were looked upon as, "not yet" - something not yet perfect. I resented this approach toward me. But I was no fighter, and I retreated into my own world. This world was so colorful and so rich that I wanted never to become a grown-up.

Yet, I had to grow up. This childhood experience, however, stayed with me. It helped me see and understand life in a much greater variety and depth. It made me respect all children as persons complete in themselves, as persons who had to find their own way, with ideas and inner struggles as valid as those of grown-ups.

On the other hand, I found out that grown persons are no more secure, no more free than children. Fundamentally, even if in a different way, they confront the same problems, they are filled with the same hopes, the same anguishes and joys, ...their deepest possible insights go in the same direction...



Danseuses a l'ecole de laban' Frankfurt 1929

because it hurts
i laugh
because i am tired
i wake
because i doubt
i search
because i fear
i dare
because i believe
i ask

july 10, 1986

Page created on 8/16/2014 10:37:39 AM

Last edited 1/6/2017 7:35:44 PM

Related Links

National Women's Caucus for Art
The MY HERO Gallery - Self-portrait of Bing as a young woman in Paris.
The MY HERO Gallery - Self-portrait of Bing as an older woman in New York.

Extra Info

Kate Kemker from Ringwood, New Jersey, wrote about her hero, Ilse Bing:

"...what a strong, creative force. Her passing will more than likely mark her spirit's last incarnation in this realm. She has gone on to loftier dimensions to accomplish even greater feats of love and creativity. She will be missed, but not forgotten.

Related Books

Author Info

Haz clic aquí para leer la historia sobre Ilse Bing en español
Canadian Wendy Jewell writes:

"Ilse Bing is my poet hero. Her life and her words have inspired me to follow my dreams."

"When I first met Ilse, her husband, Konrad Wolff, was beseeching me to rescue her from the very strong undertow off the shore of Tobago. At the age of 80, she was diving for precious pieces of coral with the sea smashing around her undaunted will. We became fast friends. Ilse has given me and those lucky enough to discover her, a reason to believe, to hope and to expect miracles."