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Self-portrait of Lotte Jacobi
with Camera


Lotte Jacobi was one of the great female photographers of the 20th century. She found fame primarily through her portraits of well-known personalities. She also photographed theater and dance inspired by her lifelong love of the arts.

Lotte Jacobi with her camera

Self-portrait of Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990) with camera
© Jewish Museum Berlin

Born into a photographic family, Lotte Jacobi’s career began early. Following her school education, she moved with her parents and siblings from Posen to Berlin in 1920. There she worked at her father’s newly established photographic atelier in Charlottenburg. In 1925, she went to Munich to study at the Technical College for Photography. She returned in 1927 to Berlin where she worked independently at her father’s atelier.

The photograph from 1929 is one of the few self-portraits of the photographer taken in that early creative period. The camera release held firmly in her hands, Jacobi is standing next to the 18 x 24 cm plate camera that she favored using at the Berlin atelier. With a questioning, distracted expression and a tense posture, she presents herself and a look behind the scenes of the craft of photography. The shot thus bears witness to her childhood dream to become an actress.
She herself later added the comment to this picture: "What am I going to do now?"

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This private video clip shows Lotte Jacobi in an interview with Dr. Eckhart Gillen in 1984/1986 in his Berlin apartment and at the Hotel Savoy. Camera: Georg von Wilcken. The original material (VHS) is partially discolored and imperfect. These flaws could not be corrected in the digitized version.
© Dr. Eckhart Gillen

During the Nazi era, working conditions in the Jacobi atelier became ever more difficult. Despite financial constrictions, use of a cover name enabled work at the atelier to continue until the final employment ban in June 1935.

In fall of the same year, Lotte Jacobi boarded a ship for New York. She had to leave behind most of her archive, which has never resurfaced. Just four weeks after she arrived in New York, Lotte Jacobi and her sister Ruth opened a photo studio in central Manhattan. A year later she had her own atelier and before long she managed to win celebrities as clients once more, though she was not able to reproduce the success of her Berlin period.


Object Details:
Lotte Jacobi
Self-portrait
Berlin 1929
Silver gelatine print on baryt paper; pencil
25,2 x 19,5 cm

During the Nazi era, working conditions in the Jacobi atelier became ever more difficult. Despite financial constrictions, use of a cover name enabled work at the atelier to continue until the final employment ban in June 1935.

In fall of the same year, Lotte Jacobi boarded a ship for New York. She had to leave behind most of her archive, which has never resurfaced. Just four weeks after she arrived in New York, Lotte Jacobi and her sister Ruth opened a photo studio in central Manhattan. A year later she had her own atelier and before long she managed to win celebrities as clients once more, though she was not able to reproduce the success of her Berlin period.

Object Details:
Lotte Jacobi
Self-portrait
Berlin 1929
Silver gelatine print on baryt paper; pencil
25,2 x 19,5 cm

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