Born in New York in 1893, Florence Henri left the city when she was two years old after the death of her mother. She was thrown into a peripatetic life, travelling between her mother’s relatives in Silesia (then part of Germany), a convent school in Paris, and family homes in London and the Isle of Wight. As an adult her travels continued: studying music in Rome, relocating to Berlin during World War One, acquiring Swiss citizenship through a hasty marriage, and moving to Paris in 1925, where she studied painting under Fernand Léger.
In 1927, when she was 34, Henri enrolled as a non-matriculating student at the Bauhaus in Dessau, where she studied photography with László Moholy-Nagy and struck up a close friendship with Lucia Moholy. Between 1928 and the late 1930s she created the photography that she is now best-known for, often using prisms and reflections to complicate her images and experimenting with techniques such as photomontage, multiple exposures and photograms.
“With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase, the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today,” wrote Moholy-Nagy in 1928. As his words suggest, Henri was celebrated in her day, and her work exhibited in shows including Das Lichtbild in 1931. Moving to Paris, she opened a successful studio and worked on advertising projects as well as her own images. Her work later became overlooked, however, and she renounced photography in the early 1960s.
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