Leo Matiz Colombian, 1917-1998

Leo Matiz documented more than 60 years of history in photographs. His work includes photographs of rural and urban landscapes, abstract forms found in architecture and nature, narrative photographs of native Latin Americans, and portraits of well-known individuals in the fields of art and politics.

A frequent traveler since his teenage years, Matiz started his career as a photographic-reporter working for magazines in Columbia. Then he traveled to Panama, traversed Central America on foot and went on to work in Mexico. Matiz lived in Mexico for approximately ten years from 1940 on and collaborated with numerous artists, such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Gabriel Figueroa, on Mexican film projects and David Alfaro Siqueiros on the mural "Cuauhtemoc against the Myth." He also captured the mystique of Frida Kahlo by characterizing her strength and sensitivity in a number of photographs, some taken in the Blue House, others in her daily life.


In 1948, Matiz moved to New York City and worked as a photo-journalist for Life magazine and the United Nations, documenting an intense conflict in the Middle East. During these assignments he witnessed and photographed assassinations and shootings, while experiencing his own personal pain and suffering. By the end of the 1940s, Leo Matiz was presented the award for Best Photo Journalist of Mexico and was also considered one of the ten best living photographers in the world. Later, Matiz opened the first studio/gallery in Bogotá, Colombia, which soon became an integral part of the bohemian scene for artists, writers and intellectuals. In 1951, Matiz launched the premiere exhibition of paintings by a 19 year old artist, Fernando Botero, and photographed his first paintings, strongly influenced by Pablo Picasso.

Matiz was honored by the French government in 1995 with a Knighthood of Arts and Letters for his extraordinary contribution to the art of photography. Matiz died in 1998 leaving us thousands of images as a contribution to the historic and artistic legacy of photography. In the last decade, there have been numerous international exhibitions of his work, among them a solo exhibition at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington D.C. His work is now in the collection of numerous museums and institutions.