Photomontage by Egon Erwin Kisch
Johanna Alexandra Jacobi
August 17, 1896
|Died||May 6, 1990 (aged 93)|
Johanna Alexandra "Lotte" Jacobi (August 17, 1896 – May 6, 1990) was a German-American photographer.
Early life and career
Born in Thorn (Toruń) in Prussia (now in Poland), she was the eldest of three children. She spent parts of her life in Berlin (1925-1935), New York City (1935-1955), and New Hampshire (1955-1990). Her portraits of celebrated subjects included Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Robert Frost, Marc Chagall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alfred Stieglitz, J.D. Salinger, Paul Robeson, May Sarton, Pauline Koner, Berenice Abbott and Edward Steichen.
The name "Lotte" was a nickname given to her by her father. She always used it professionally and was never known by her birth name outside her family. In 1916 she married Fritz Honig, and a year later she gave birth to a son, John. The marriage did not last, and in 1924 they divorced.
She studied literature and art history at the Royal Academy in Poznań from 1912 to 1917 and completed formal artistic training at the Bavarian State Academy of Photography and the University of Munich (1925 – 1927). Jacobi entered the family photography business in 1927. During this same period she began her professional work as a photographer, represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal) and she also produced four films, the most important being Portrait of the Artist, a study of Josef Scharl. From October 1932 to January 1933, she traveled to the Soviet Union, in particular to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, taking photographs of what she saw. She returned to Berlin in February 1933, one month after Hitler came to power. As persecution against Jews increased, she left Germany with her son, arriving in September 1935 in New York City. Nearly all of her early work was lost when she immigrated. Jacobi and her sister, Ruth Jacobi Roth, opened a studio in Manhattan.
In 1940, Jacobi married Erich Reiss, a distinguished German publisher and writer, a marriage that lasted until his death in 1951. During this time, she continued portrait photography at her studio, while also experimenting with photogenics: a cameraless photography in which she exposed photosensitive paper to light to create abstract images. In 1955, Jacobi left New York with her son and daughter-in-law and moved to Deering, New Hampshire, a move that changed her life. There she opened a new studio, where she both continued her own work and displayed works by other artists. She became interested in politics and was a fervent Democrat, representing New Hampshire at the Democratic National Convention in 1980. She traveled extensively and enjoyed new-found fame in the 1970s and 1980s.
Jacobi died May 6, 1990 at the age of 93. She bequeathed 47,000 negatives to the Lotte Jacobi Archives established at the University of New Hampshire. This record of 20th century history revealed in the faces of the artists, world leaders, intelligentsia, and ordinary people of America and Europe.
Her work is included prestigious museum collections around the world including the International Center of Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Israel Museum, Berlinische Galerie, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the National Gallery of Canada.
Lotte Jacobi is best known for her photographic portraits, which act as a "chronicle of an era." The list of her subjects includes W. H. Auden, Martin Buber, Marc Chagall, W. E. B. Du Bois, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Käthe Kollwitz, Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre, Thomas Mann, Max Planck, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.D. Salinger, Alfred Stieglitz, and Chaim Weizmann, to name but a few. Jacobi traveled around from assignment to assignment with her equipment bringing the studio to her models. She liked to wait until the models were most at ease before taking a photograph.
- Guide to the Lotte Jacobi Papers, 1898-2000, University of New Hampshire
- Lotte Jacobi Clippings Collection,1979, Leo Baeck Institute,New York, NY
- Kelly Wise (1978). Lotte Jacobi. Danbury: Addison House. p. 27.
- "Lotte Jacobi". International Center of Photography. 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
- Rebecca Madamba (2008) The Schostal Agency: A Finding Aid for the Schostal Agency Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Thesis of the Honours Bachelors of Arts, Studies in Arts and Culture, Concentration in Curatorial Studies, Brock University.
- "Guide to the Lotte Jacobi Papers, 1898-2000". Retrieved 2017-03-11.
- "Lotte Jacobi (American, born Germany, 1896 - 1990) (Getty Museum)". The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
- "Lotte Jacobi | Jewish Women's Archive". jwa.org. Retrieved 2017-03-11.