Born in Vienna, Lisette Model initially studied music. She took up photography full-time while living in Paris, where she often focused her camera on the less fortunate. In 1938, she moved to New York City and there worked for Harper’s Bazaar for 12 years. From 1951 to 1983, she taught at the New School for Social Research where her longtime friend Berenice Abbott was a member of the faculty. Among Model's many students was famed photographer Diane Arbus.