Known as the Queen of the Leica, Isle Bing is one of the most influential German modernist photographers of the 20th century. Bing was born to an upper middle class Jewish family in Frankfurt-Am-Main, Germany in 1899. She enrolled in to the University of Frankfurt in 1920 to study mathematics and physics, but changed to the History of Art, and in 1924 began her doctorate exploring Neo-Classical German architect Friedrich Gilly. To illustrate her thesis, Bing purchased her first camera, a Voigtlander in 1928 and taught herself photography. The following year, she purchased the lightweight Leica and in 1929, Bing began photographing for Das Illustriete Blatt and continued to produce stories for the magazine until 1931.
In the late 1920s, Bing was introduced to the German avant garde and members of the Bauhaus School of design by Mart Stam, with whom she collaborated throughout her career. Inspired by Paris-based Swiss photographer Florence Henri, Bing moved to Paris. She continued to photograph on commission for German publications, but also took photographs that expressed her own artistic interest. In 1931, Bing exhibited her first show at La Pléiade and participated in the 26th Salon Internationale d'Art Photographique. New York-based writer Hendrik Willem van Loon was instrumental in Bing's career. He introduced her work to American clients, including American gallerist Julien Lévy. Lévy staged the first exhibition of Bing's photographs in America in a show called Modern European Photography: Twenty Photographers at his New York gallery in 1932. In 1936, she was given a solo exhibition at June Rhodes gallery. While in New York, Bing photographed in the city and Connecticut and met Alfred Stieglitz, the great proponent of American modern photography.
Throughout the 1930s, Bing was considered to be one of the most prominent European modern photographer. In 1937, Beaumont Newhall included Bing's photographs in MoMa's survey, 'Photographs 1839-1937.' Bing continued to photograph in Paris until the outbreak of the War, but her situation became increasingly dangerous and she spent six weeks in a camp in Southern France while she wanted for a visa to escape the county. With the help of Harper's Bazaar, Bing and her husband were granted American Visas and emigrated to the New York, where she continued to photograph until the late 1950s, when she left photography to pursue more abstract forms of artistic expression.
Since the late 1970s, Bing's photographs have maintained a canonical position in Modernist and feminist photographic history. Her work has been shown at a number of retrospectives including Ilse Bing: Three Decades of Photograph at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1985 that toured to the International Center for Photograph in NY, Kunstverein, Frankfurt in 1987 and at the Musee Carnavalet in Paris. In 2004, The Victoria and Albert Museum also staged an exhibition of her photographs entitled, The Ilse Bing: Queen of the Leica.