Born in 1910, Willy Ronis was raised in a culturally nurturing family. Growing up in a middle-class family in the heart of the Cité Condorcet, his parents immigrated to France from Eastern Europe. In Paris, his father set up a photography studio in Montmartre, and his mother taught piano lessons, music becoming an early influence and first passion for Ronis. In the 1930s, Willy Ronis would take over his father’s photography studio. After battling cancer and being ill, Ronis’s father was unable to operate the family business alone. While working at his family’s photography studio and after viewing the work of photographers from the Nouvelle Vision of the 1930s, Ronis began to explore the use of photography outside of his studio’s commercial needs, moving towards journalism and his personal excursions. After his father’s passing, Ronis sold the studio in 1936 and began working as a freelance photographer.
At the end of the 1930s, Ronis started his lifelong work in journalism, eventually joining the Rapho agency and working alongside Parisian legends like Brassaï. In 1955, Edward Steichen included Ronis in the seminal Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, cementing his importance as a significant photographer of the 20th century.