Adieu Michelle Vignes

October 23, 2012 § 3 Comments

THE MESSAGE CAME from a neighbor via email on October 3. “Tonight about 8 we heard sirens, then a fire engine and an ambulance pulled up in front of Michelle’s house,” he wrote. “After 5 minutes or so they carried her out to the ambulance, which quietly drove away.”

Two days later, on October 5, 2012, photographer Michelle Vignes died, and the Bay Area photography world lost one of its shining stars.

Vignes came to San Francisco in the mid-1960s from France, where she had worked with legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. She photographed many of the seminal moments of the era: the Black Panthers, the Native American occupation of Alcatraz, rock bands at the Fillmore Auditorium, the final flourish of the Oakland blues clubs. She photographed female prisoners, Playboy bunnies and church ladies seized by the spirit.

“It’s a mystery, a photograph,” she told an interviewer. “It’s like having an orgasm in a way. When it’s right — the feeling of taking the right picture at the right time in the right composition — it’s a joy.”

A community memorial in celebration of her life will be held on Saturday, October 27, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

EARLIER: “Shooting from the inside

§ 3 Responses to Adieu Michelle Vignes

  • I am sorry to read this. She has been on my mind recently. She was a friend in the eighties. I took her with me to the Pine Ridge Reservation where we trekked around for two to three weeks in a rented car I drove, and I introduced her to a number of women for her to take photographs. I have a series of them to be used in a book on Lakota women, if I ever get that manuscript revised for publication. We had a fairly good time doing that… She wanted me to travel with her to some remote Mexican village, but I was not interested…..

  • zach says:

    Chiao Michelle
    Thanks for all of the cafecitos and vhiskies and showing me a part of SF and France I never would have seen without you…a tough cookie you are (and a big heart)…Goodbye also to Warner

  • John Turner says:

    We worked together on a proposed book on California folk environments. She was a talented individual. I believe her photo archives are at U.C. Berkeley.

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