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


Bees, Candles, Roots, and Remembrance

Interview with Alexis Hyman Wolff

A woman standing in front of a showcase with books.

Alexis Hyman Wolff in her exhibition Zur Zeit at the Museum der Dinge, Berlin, June 2013.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

One of the works in our art vending machine is a candle shaped like a root, made by the artist and curator Alexis Hyman Wolff. In this interview, she offers insight into the development of the work:

Christiane Bauer: Why did you make a candle for the art vending machine?
Alexis Hyman Wolff: Thinking about the small size of the objects and the temporary home they would find in the vending machine, I wanted to reflect on the idea of the souvenir, a central theme in museums. Candles are used for memorial in many cultures.  In Jewish tradition, a yortsayt candle is lit to remember a loved one on the anniversary of their death.

What is special about the material you used?
The candles are made out of beeswax from a beekeeping supplier in Berlin. I understand that beeswax is one of the few materials that burn without producing black smoke, which could explain the belief that burning beeswax candles is good for the air.  According to a European folk custom, when someone dies, a member of the family must go to the hive and “tell the bees,” and also invite them to the funeral. This tradition suggests a link between bees and the spirit world.

How important is the aspect of “remembrance” in your work?  continue reading


A Clock Made of Clay and Cocoa in a Pot of Feathers

Orange glazed clock with black numerals

Clock, designed by Greta Heimann-Loebenstein.
Gift from the heirs of Greta Heimann-Loebenstein.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Nadja Rentzsch

“I chose this clock,” says Leonie* (8 years old) pointing to the showcase. The clock is red and the numbers look a bit strange. She laughs. “A clay clock!” She’s never seen anything like it. The children study the cups, pots, and vases in the big cabinet intently. They gaze, curiously, at the shapes, colors, and designs. They’re supposed to pick the object they like best. Then they’ll learn the name of the ceramicist who made it, its purpose and appearance.

A girl looking at a showcase with ceramic objects

Children’s tour through the cabinet exhibition “Tonalities. Jewish Women Ceramicists from Germany after 1933”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Nadja Rentzsch

Jona (7) exclaims: “I like this bowl best. Grete made it.” “I think that design is lovely. What would you put in the bowl?” Anna (43) asks him.

Anna is guiding the children from a Berlin elementary school through the cabinet exhibition “Tonalities. Jewish Women Ceramicists from Germany after 1933.”  Without hesitating, Jona answers: “Apples or bananas, or even nuts.” “Maybe even pears, or bread!” calls out Elsa (8).

A girl cutting out something from a cardboard

Workshop at the studio in the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Nadja Rentzsch

Her favorite object is a candlestick. It’s beige and was made by the ceramicist Hanna. Anna asks the class, “Do you all know what celebration this candlestick would be used for?” Leonie’s hand flies up; she knows the answer: Hanukkah. She has just participated in a candle-dipping workshop for the Jewish Festival of Lights in December.

After the tour, the children start working on their own projects.  continue reading