Jews were leaders in photography movement

Posted on 19 December 2018 by admin

I cannot help but smile when I see people taking “selfies” with their phones.
I guess that I am somewhat old-fashioned, but I associate “photography” with cameras and not with cell phones. If you want to think of your cellphone as a camera, be my guest. Who am I to argue?
Obviously, we have come a long way in the history of photography. My belief is that most people do not know that Jews have been a significant force in the field of photography.
One of the earliest Jewish contributors was Levi ben Gershom, who, in the early 1300s, used a camera-like box to temporarily capture and observe images and eclipses of the sun. It wasn’t an actual camera, but you have to start somewhere.
Two years after the Daguerreotype was first developed in 1839, Herman Biouw, a Jewish artist, became famous for portraits of royalty as well as the earliest news photographs, of the Great Fire of Hamburg. Other of Biouw’s historic photos were the first Jewish family portrait (the Hahn family of Berlin) and the first portrait taken of a rabbi, Rabbi Samuel Hirsh of Hamburg.
Biouw’s achievement’s included making prints from copper plates, gold-toning and hand-coloring of prints. Tragically, he died as a result of inhaling the fumes of the processing chemicals.
Around the same time period in Melbourne, 1842, George Goodman pioneered photography in Australia, opening that nation’s first portrait studio.
As interest in photography grew in Australia, Jabez Small opened studios in Melbourne and Sidney and, eventually, a chain of camera shops that his son extended to every major city in the country.
In the 1840s, father and son David and Solomon Nunes Carvalho brought studio photography to Charleston, South Carolina. They eventually founded a photographic shop in Los Angeles as well as the city’s first Hebrew School.
Other Jewish photographic pioneers included Friedrich Lessman, Mendel Diness (first Jewish photographer in Jerusalem) and Michael Greim (1860).
In addition to portraiture, Jewish photographers documented life around them. They were sensitive to the issues facing other Jews like themselves. Photographers, especially Jewish ones, knew Jewish folkways, likes and dislikes.
Jewish photographers had the opportunity to capture old, traditional folkways, some of which were changing and disappearing. One cause of picture postcards becoming so popular was this very reason.
In addition to its growing commercial success, photography was also gaining acceptance and expanding as an art form. Jews and others found it easy to join with other artists and groups to learn and expand in this relatively new area of expression.
One example of how Jewish photo-artists developed and flourished is that of Andre Friedman, known to the world as Robert Capa. Born in Budapest, he left for Berlin at age 18, escaped to France as Hitler gained power and became world famous with his photo coverage of the Spanish Civil War.
Who could forget Capa’s photo of a soldier falling backward at the moment of being struck on the battlefield?
You may recognize the name of Margaret Bourke-White, in reality Margaret Bourke-Weiss, a Life magazine photographer whose grandparents were Orthodox Jews from Poland.
Alfred Stieglitz left his family’s printing business, becoming one of the first great art photographers of street scenes, portraits and nature.
The most famous images of World War II were captured by Jewish photographers such as Capa, Walter Rosenblum, Martin Lederhandler and Louis Weintraub.
AP photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the famous Iwo Jima flag-raising image, probably the most memorable photo of World War II.
Life magazine was considered the prime publication for creative photographers. Look magazine, another pictorial magazine, achieved success under Arthur Rothstein, its director of photography, and its creative artist, Ben Shahn.
And if you are not convinced by now that Jews played a significant role in the history of photography, I need only remind you of that famous Life magazine cover photo of the V-J Day Times Square celebration showing the sailor kissing the nurse.
The famous image was captured by Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, a German-born Jew.

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