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.

Four women on a street

Little Italy, New York 1943
© Estate of Fred Stein

The photo shows a group of women looking directly into the camera. Four of them are dressed in smart coats and tailored suits while the other woman standing beside them is wearing working clothes, and has a cigarette cocked in her hand. All the women have attitude: they look proud, powerful, and self-assured. Two male passers-by who are looking at the women underscore the women’s strong expression. The blur of buildings behind them looks like a stage-set pushed into the wings.
Little Italy remains a popular district in New York. In Fred Stein’s day, it was considered a male-dominated neighborhood. And what did Fred Stein do? He depicted five women radiant with pride and self-confidence.

This photograph is only one among the many excellent shots captured by Fred Stein. His complex, often critical and, at times, humorous images merge the everyday and the extraordinary.

We are looking forward to the opening of the exhibition in the Eric F. Ross Gallery and we are certain that you, too, will find your favorites among the 130 black and white photographs on show.

Jihan Radjai and Theresia Ziehe, curators of the exhibition

Further details of the exhibition can be found at our website.

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