"First Pictures. New York in the Eye of European Emigrant Photographers in the 1940s"

Helene Roth

Nomadic Camera. Fotografie, Exil und Migration, special issue of Fotogeschichte. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie, vol. 39, no. 151, 2019, pp. 17–26.

Immediately after arriving in New York, exiled photographers explored the metropolis with their cameras. This phase of arrival is an interesting starting point for an investigation, since on the one hand the flight from Europe was only a short time ago and on the other hand the physical arrival on American soil had already begun with the docking of the ship. The transcultural oscillation between the old, familiar, abandoned and the new, future, hitherto unknown country becomes particularly clear in the first visual impressions of the metropolis. This article takes a look at examples of the European emigrant photography scene, which undertook heterogeneous, creative, experimental first visual approaches. Joseph Breitenbach, Lisette Model and also Hermann Landshoff are connected by their autodidactic approach to photography as well as their first common station of exile in Paris in the 1930s. Due to their Jewish descent, they had to leave Europe and emigrated to New York in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Each of them photographed their first impressions and encounters with the metropolis in their own artistic language, different techniques and image composition.