The Psychology of Making Portraits

“Hello. My name is Fred Stein, I’m a photographer, left-wing, and I would like to take your picture.”

This is how Fred Stein used to strike up a conversation with people he hoped to portray. Between 1933 and 1967 he managed to make more than 1,200 portraits this way. The words show he had not only the courage to approach people, but also a talent for quickly putting those who had caught his eye at ease.

portrait of Willy Brandt

Willy Brandt, New York 1957
© Estate of Fred Stein

Fred Stein took a passionate interest both in those he portrayed and their work. With André Malraux, Arthur Koestler, Egon Erwin Kisch, and countless other peers he discussed the political landscape in Europe of the 1930 and 40s. Willy Brandt and he became firm friends and remained so all their lives long, and likewise others whose portrait he made. In a letter of 10 May 1983, Brandt recalled:

“I met Fred Stein when we were both refugees and fighting the totalitarian Nazi regime with the rather modest means at our disposal. He was a man ahead of his time, an avant-garde and brilliant photographer, inspired by the commitment to justice and concern for truth so clearly reflected in his photographs.  continue reading


A Story from the Kibbutz

photo of the booklet, on the left an illustration, on the right a short text

Excerpt from “The Guardian / Sycamore Group”
© Atalya Laufer

One of the works in our art vending machine is a booklet which provides an insight into the inner-workings of many of the Israeli Kibbuzim. With sober drawings and a text that is based on archival documents, artist Atalya Laufer (b. 1979) exposes a particular aspect of growing up on a Kibbutz. As one of the last generation of children to be raised in communal children’s houses (Batei Yeladim), she takes us on a journey through time and into the passing world of the Kibutzim.

The text in the booklet is based on protocols of night shifts that were taken in the early 1970s. In these protocols incidents and particularities in every house, during every night shift, had been recorded. Owing to these we can readily reconstruct the daily life in children’s houses.  continue reading


The story of Uri Kozower

Photo of Gisela and Phillip Kozower with their baby in 1932

Gisela and Philipp Kozower with their daughter Eva in August of 1932
© Friends of the Jewish Museum New York, Princeton; photographer: unknown, donated by Klaus M. Zwilsky

Lawyer Philipp Kozower was 37 when he married the 23-year-old medical student Gisela in 1931. A year later she gave birth to their first child, a daughter called Eva. The new parents had their picture taken with their baby in Berlin’s Monbijou Park: wearing a bright dress and straw hat, Gisela holds the baby towards the camera somewhat awkwardly, as if the picture should document that Eva exists.

By the time Eva’s sister Alice was born in 1934, the National Socialists had already enacted numerous laws against Jews as well as taken measures to exclude them from public life. Our online project “1933: The beginning of the end of German Jewry” presents a variety of source materials from the Jewish Museum Berlin’s archives that bear witness to the disenfranchisement of German Jews. A display case with photographs and letters in our permanent exhibition details the Kozower family’s story:  continue reading