“There must be something going on down there too…”

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Running Legs, New York, 1940-41 (119.1993)

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Running Legs, New York, 1940-41 (83.1993)

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Running Legs, New York, 1940-41 (96.1993)

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Running Legs, New York, 1940-41 (97.1993)

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Running Legs, New York, 1940-41 (126.1993)

Lisette Model speaking at ICP on November 17, 1977 about how she started taking these photos of sidewalk scrapers.

A summary (even though everything sounds better in Lisette Model’s voice, darling): After arriving in New York, the first thing Lisette Model wanted to do was photograph skyscrapers. Instead of looking up, she began looking down. Dissatisfied with the way the perspective appeared in her Rolleiflex camera, she started intensely photographing, for six weeks, legs and feet, gams and shoes, on the sidewalks of New York.

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Running Legs, New York, 1940-41 (51.1993)

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“The Most Extraordinary Singers and Music” – Lisette Model at Sammy’s Bowery Follies

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Singer [Mabel Sidney] at Sammy’s Bar, ca. 1940, (20.1993)

Mabel Sidney at Sammy’s, ca. 1955

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Singer at Sammy’s, New York, ca. 1940 (49.1993)

Lisette Model speaking, at ICP on November 17, 1977, about Sammy’s (267 Bowery).

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Two Singers, Sammy’s Bar, ca. 1940 (134.1993)

Lisette Model (1901-1983), Couple Dancing, ca. 1940 (90.1993)

Lisette Model (1901-1983), At Sammy’s, New York, ca. 1940 (22.1993)

Lisette Model speaking at ICP on November 17, 1977 about how she got into photography.
A summary: Trained as a musician, a child-student of Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951), Lisette Model was a pianist and wanted to become a singer. After moving from Vienna to Paris something went wrong, “I had too many teachers. Beware of teachers.” Model started to paint. After a 1936 meeting in Paris with a composer who had fled Nazi Germany, Model (who had a little sister who was an excellent amateur photographer) decided to become “a darkroom worker” in order to make a living. (To be continued.)

Weegee, Lisette Model, at Nick’s Jazz Joint ca. 1946 (14208.1993)

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“Free Manicure and Free Tea Cup Reading with Your Lunch”

Lee Sievan, Class in Cultural Anthropology at Hunter College, 1940s (190.1991)

Lee Sievan, San Gennaro, Two Girls with Soda Pop and Balloons, 1946 (33.1990)

Lee Sievan, Corner Candy Store, 1940s (38.1990)

Lee Sievan, Movie Posters and Clothes Lines, 1939 (34.1990)

Lee Sievan was a great photographer.
Like most of us, she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet.
Unlike most of us, she worked at Hunter College for many years.
Like more than a few of us, Sievan worked and volunteered at the ICP library.
Unlike most of us, Sievan had a significant connection with many important 20th century artists, like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

According to the website of The Platt Fine Art gallery: Sievan was born on October 9th, 1907, her parents were Polish immigrants and she grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She graduated from Hunter College in 1925 and continue to work there for 42 years. Sievan studied with Berenice Abbott at the New School and the Photo League. Weegee was a friend and teacher. And intriguingly, Platt Fine Art says that Sievan worked as Weegee’s darkroom assistant.

Lee Sievan, Free Manicure with Your Lunch, 1940s (36.1990)

Unlike most of us, Sievan had an obituary in the New York Times:

Lee Sievan, a photographer, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on Tuesday at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. She was 82 years old and lived in Manhattan.
Fifty years ago, Mrs. Sievan began taking pictures to record the career of her husband, the painter Maurice Sievan. She also photographed performers and other artists, including Paul Robeson, Milton Avery and Mark Rothko.
Some of her photographs of New York City in the 1940’s were recently displayed at the International Center for Photography, on Fifth Avenue at 94th Street, where Mrs. Sievan had worked as a librarian and archivist for 15 years. The photographs are now on view at the Museum of the City of New York.

Lee Sievan, Downtown Manhattan with Cable, 1940s (3.1990)

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Silver Swans

Unidentified PhotographerWomen’s Baseball Team, ca. 1910 (2011.17.3)

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Lotte Jacobi – “I was born to photography”

Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990), Lotte Lenya, actress, Berlin, ca. 1930, (37.1986)

Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990), Photogenic, “silverlining,” 1950 (50.1986)

Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990), Peter Lorre, actor, Berlin, ca. 1932 (41.1986)

Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990), Anna Mae Wong, actress, Berlin, ca. 1931 (38.1986)

Lotte Jacobi at ICP, 1979.

Anna Mae Wong, actress, Berlin, ca. 1931 (38.1986)
Pauline Koner, dancer, New York, ca. 1937 (44.1986)
Photogenic, “silverlining”, ca. 1950 (50.1986)
Photogenic, “water”, ca. 1950 (51.1986)
Lil Dagover, actress, Berlin, ca. 1930 (35.1986)
Lil Dagover, actress, Berlin, ca. 1930 (36.1986)
Anton Walbrook, actor, Berlin, ca. 1933 (42.1986)
Marc Chagall and daughter Ida, New York, ca. 1945 (49.1986)
Käthe Kollwitz, artist, Berlin, ca. 1931 (39.1986)
Albert Einstein, physicist, Noble Prize winner, Princeton, N.J., 1938 (45.1986)
Max Liebermann, artist, Berlin, ca. 1933 (43.1986)
Lotte Lenya, actress, Berlin, ca. 1930 (37.1986)
Robert Frost in Ripton, Vermont, 1959 (52.1986)
Alfred Stieglitz, photographer, at An American Place, New York, 1936 (46.1986)
Head of a dancer, Berlin, ca. 1929 (34.1986)

In the fall of 1979, Lotte Jacobi spoke with Margaretta K. Mitchell at ICP in conjunction with the exhibition: “Recollections: Ten Women of Photography.” The above is a relevant excerpt. Jacobi speaks about how she became a photographer, what it was like to be a photographer in Berlin in the 1930s, how some of her photographs were made, and about some of the photographs that are in ICP’s collection (in the GIF above).

Margaretta K. Mitchell, Lotte Jacobi, 1978 (34.1983)

Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990). Lotte Jacobi’s mailbox announces “Jacobi” in capital letters alongside an old county road in New Hampshire. Next to greet the eye is her Volkswagen’s license plate carrying the state’s motto, “Live free or die,” which turns out to be a clue to the character of her personality, her life, her work. The studio house, created from two lumberman’s shacks, has the improvisational atmosphere of a summer camp or a cottage for a gardener (which she is, and a beekeeper besides). She is clearly also a saver of jars, notes, books, letters, and, of course, boxes filled with pictures. Conversation accompanies our garden tour. She talks as she walks among the day lilies, breaking off dry dead blossoms, tidying up the yard, moving the hose, watering potted plants. We check the summer vegetables, eat a few raspberries between sentences, and visit the beehives and the adjacent field of oats. At the studio, alert on the curved blue sofa, her shawls draped against the back, Lotte Jacobi seems like a bird about to take flight, yet for the moment she remains totally still. Around the room is evidence of an activist in local politics. A stack of bumper stickers proclaiming “No Nukes in New Hampshire ” sits on a carved wood chest beside her portraits of Robert Frost, Albert Einstein, May Sarton, and others. Laconic by nature, Lotte Jacobi wastes no words in her responses to my questions about her early work as a portrait photographer in Berlin – “I was born to photography”; about her resettling here as an American – “I place a high value on individual independence”; about photographing famous people – “We are all just human beings.”
Margaretta K. Mitchell: “Recollections: Ten Women of Photography,” 1979, p.140.

My great-grandfather met Daguerre around 1840 on a trip to Paris. That meeting made him a photographer. He purchased equipment and a license to use the Daguerre process, returned to Germany, and set himself up in business.
My great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my father were photographers. My father’s brothers were, too and some of his sisters married photographers. A whole family of photographers. My sister Ruth Jacobi Roth, is also a photographer. […]
Once I was asked to give a lecture at the Photo League of New York City. I told them I couldn’t lecture but they could ask me something. They said, “We only want to see how you make your pictures.” I showed them, and it was simple I think they didn’t see anything. I don’t think I impressed them very much. You can’t see what I do. I don’t need any background or anything special. I make it simple and try to never complicate things.
Lotte Jacobi, “Recollections: Ten Women of Photography,” 1979, pp. 140-141.

Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990), Head of a dancer, Berlin, ca. 1929 (34.1986)

Lotte Jacobi was born with photographer’s eye… For three generations, the Jacobi family had a photography studio. In 1898, when Lotte was 2, the family moved from Thorn, West Prussia, where she was born, to Posen, which was part of Germany before World War I. Lotte began learning the technical aspects of the family trade when she was 8 and helped her father, Sigismund Jacobi, make wet plates for reproductions in the darkroom. When she was 12, she asked her father for a camera. “He said to me, ‘First, you must make your own camera. That way you will be sure to understand the principle of photography.’ He helped me build a pin‐hole camera. The photographs I took with that camera are the best ones I ever made. From then on, I photographed, but I did not like the business of photography. I did not want to be the fourth‐generation Jacobi to have a photography [studio]. […] Gaylen Moore, New York Times, September 16, 1979

Lotte Jacobi Papers at the University of New Hampshire.
“Born Johanna Alexandre Jacobi on August 17, 1896, in Thorn, West Prussia, Germany, to Maria and Sigismund Jacobi, she was called Lotte by her family and thereafter by all others.” “Lotte Jacobi, 1896–1990,” by Marion Levenson Ross, Jewish Women’s Archive.

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Ernst HaasBicentennial, Concord, Massachusetts, 1975 (35.1976)

Fazal Sheikh, Fatuma Abdi Hussein and her son Abdullai, Somali refugee camp, Mandera, Kenya, 1993 (64.1997)

John Olson, [Grace Slick with her mother Virginia Wing in her home, Palo Alto, California], 1971 (2482.2005)

Gordon Coster, [Smiling mother and son, Chicago], 1944 (1117.2005)

Eve Arnold, Mother and baby’s hands, 1959 (771.1983)

Robert Capa, [Lapp family, Norway], 1951 (2013.92.120)

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Inspirations of Strong Women

Walter K. Gutman, Untitled (“Suzie”- Suzanne Perry. Still from film The Adoration of Suzie),  1966-1971 (280.1983.a)

Walter K. Gutman, Untitled (Champion weight lifter carrying 165-170 pounds over her head),  1979-1981 (280.1983.k)

Walter K. Gutman, Untitled (Weight lifter, International Olympic Class Women’s Weight Lifting Championship, Waterloo, Iowa),  May, 1981 (280.1983.l)

Walter K. Gutman, Untitled (Mary Louise Harmel),  1979-1981 (280.1983.h)

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