Lotte Jacobi

1896Toruń, Poland | 1990New Hampshire, United States
Lotte Jacobi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Photo: Otto Steinert

German-born American photographer.

A major figure of photography from the interwar period, Johanna Alexandra (known as Lotte) Jacobi, was celebrated for her portraits. In Berlin and later New York, she socialised with the avant-garde groups although her images were often more humanist than formalist. From a family of East Prussian photographers, based in Berlin since 1920, she first worked in the studio with her father before enrolling in the photography at the University of Munich in 1925. After returning to Berlin, she managed the family studio, which specialised in traditional portraits, and began working for the press and illustrated magazines. Between 1927 and 1935 she realised a series of portraits of figures from avant-garde artistic and intellectual circles from the Weimar Republic in natural and liberating poses (theorist Martin Buber, Odenwald, 1928; actor Lotte Lenya, Berlin, 1930). Equipped with an Ermanox camera, she was passionate about dance and theatre photography. The exhibition Dance photographs organised by the Brooklyn Museum in 1937 presented a number of her moving images. Close to communist circles, she visited the photographer Tina Modotti in Moscow in 1932. Left-wing and Jewish, she was forced to flee and left Berlin in 1935 for New York, where she opened a studio.

She realised portraits of the exiled New York intelligentsia, such as Berenice Abbott (1943). She is also known for her portrait of Albert Einstein (Princeton, 1938), whom she photographed candidly, seated at his desk, dishevelled and dressed in a leather jacket, a work that was refused by Life magazine for its simplicity. In the 1940sshe approached experimental photography with her Photogenics series, images playing with textures and light, realised without a camera. A part of her series Adventures in the World of Light was exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1948 in the exhibition In and Out of Focus. In her New York studio as well as in her New Hampshire gallery that she opened in Deering in 1963, she exhibited photographers that she loved, such as Minor White, as well as other female artists. During the 1970s she became politically active against the Vietnam War and nuclear power, while continuing to produce numerous portraits.

Anne Reverseau

Translated from French by Katia Porro.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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