Cabinets Full of Photographs, Contact Sheets, and Letters

My Week of Intensive Research into Fred Stein’s Archives

Three pictures with a skyline on a sheet of paper

Contact sheet Brooklyn Bridge
© Estate of Fred Stein, photo: Theresia Ziehe

In June of 2012 I had the opportunity to delve into the estate of Fred Stein. During the preparation for our then-upcoming exhibition “In an Instant,” I travelled to the little town of Stanfordville, NY to visit Peter Stein, the photographer’s son and archive administrator. For a week, I studied the voluminous and multi-faceted material stored in various rooms of the private residence. It was an unforgettable immersion into the life and work of Fred Stein.

Hundreds of negatives, kept in fireproof cabinets, make up the core of the collection. Their differing formats point to the two cameras Stein photographed with: coiled strips of Leica negatives and individually packaged 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches negatives in pergamin sheets from the Rolleiflex. The cameras themselves unfortunately didn’t survive. Among these negatives, you can see Stein’s first shots of Dresden shortly before he emigrated to Paris in 1933.  continue reading


Esther on a Roll

Detail of a scroll illustrated with a picture of a city

Detail of a Megillah, Germany, 18th century
© Jewish Museum Berlin. Photo: Michaela Roßberg

Today, 16 March, Jewish communities are celebrating Purim. On this holiday, the biblical Book of Esther is read aloud in synagogue. In keeping with tradition, the story of Esther—who saves the Jewish people in the Persian Empire from destruction by Haman, the king’s highest-ranking official—is read not from a book but from a parchment scroll. Commenting on the (Hebrew) reading, noisy hoots and rattles are sounded. (Alternative customs are described in our blog text for last year’s Purim).

Numerous Esther scrolls are currently in the custody of the Jewish Museum. The 32 works on loan will be on display along with other historical manuscripts from 4 April 2014, in the special exhibition “The Creation of the World. Illustrated Manuscripts from the Braginsky Collection.”  continue reading


In an Instant.
Photographs by Fred Stein

Opening this Friday at the Eric F. Ross Gallery

Fred Stein is a photographer whose work and biography leave no one unmoved. Some of his portraits are famous—those of Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt for example—yet Fred Stein himself is not a household name. The young lawyer was forced to flee Germany in 1933. He went first to Paris, and then in 1941 to New York. In these cities of exile he made photography his new profession, producing numerous street scenes and portraits.

“In An Instant” struck us as an apt title for the exhibition of his extensive oeuvre scheduled to open at the Jewish Museum Berlin on 22 November. This title highlights Fred Stein’s talent for capturing his subjects at the decisive moment, spontaneously, and without elaborate preparations—a natural talent, incidentally, for he was a self-taught amateur.

Fred Stein’s special gift of observation is evident in the photograph “Little Italy” (New York, 1943), one of our many favorites.  continue reading