Leo Matiz, one of the most important Colombian photographers of the 20th century, documented more than 60 years of history in photographs. His body of work includes photographs of rural and urban landscapes, abstract architectural and natural features, portraits of well-known individuals in art and politics, and narrative photographs of native Latin Americans. Matiz started his career touring Columbia as a photographer and reporter for magazines. After, he traveled to Panama, crossing Central America on foot, and moved his work studio to Mexico. From 1940 to the late 40s, Matiz collaborated with numerous outstanding artists. He worked with Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Gabriel Figueroa on Mexican film projects and David Alfaro Siqueiros on the mural Cuauhtemoc against the Myth. He also had the privilege of capturing Frida Kahlo—a woman of great strength and sensitivity—in her everyday life, both at the Blue House and in Coyoacan.
In 1948, Matiz moved to New York City and worked as a photo-journalist for Life Magazine. Under the direction of the United Nations, Matiz documented the intense conflict in the Middle East. During the assignment, he witnessed and photographed assassinations and shootings while concurrently experiencing his own personal suffering. By the 50s, Leo Matiz was presented an award for “Best Photo Journalist of Mexico” and was also regarded as on of the ten best living photographers in the world. Later, Matiz moved back to Columbia and opened his first studio in Bogotá. His space because an integral part of the bohemian scene for artists, writers, and intellectuals. In 1951, Matiz launched the premiere exhibition of paintings by a 19 y/o artist, Fernando Botero—who was heavily influenced at the time by the work of Pablo Picasso.
In 1995, Matiz was honored by the French government with a Knighthood of Arts and Letters for his extraordinary contribution to the art of photography. Leo Matiz died in 1998 leaving thousands of images to the historic and artistic legacy of photography. In the last decade, numerous international museums and galleries have exhibited his work, producing several books and museum collections—including the Museum of Modern Art.
Photographs © The Estate of Leo Matiz