Friday 6 September 2019

Gerty Simon: Missing Pieces in a Photographic Puzzle

Berlin/London: The Lost Photographs of Gerty Simon 
The Wiener Library 
30 May – 15 October 2019

One side effect of the forced migration of so many thousands of Jews from Nazi Germany in the 1930s was the significant number of highly-trained and professionally-active women, including photographers, who arrived in the UK, bringing with them new techniques and approaches. Among them, and, at the time one of the best known, was Gertrude (Gerty) Simon (1888-1970). Born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Bremen, she had moved to Berlin in the aftermath of the First World War. Both her husband (Wilhelm) and her father were lawyers. Paving her own career path, however, and teaching herself how to handle a camera, Simon started out with editorial photography in 1922, getting a work published just one year after the birth of her son, Bernard (Bernd). She soon became a successful portrait photographer, attracting, by the end of the decade, such renowned sitters as the singer (and Simon’s friend) Lotte Lenya, the artists Max Lieberman and Käthe Kollwitz, the scientist Albert Einstein, and the French politician Andre Tardieu (who later became the French Prime Minister). The recently deceased, then six-year-old, Judith Kerr, who went on to write the Mogseries and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, is also among those portrayed. Alongside these well-known personalities, Simon also captured the ‘new woman’ of Weimar Berlin, with her short hair, cigarettes, and frequently androgynous appearance. 

Read the full essay here

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