Kurt Lubinski  7 March until 8 June 2008

Photographer in Exile

Kurt Lubinski on the bank of the River Yenisei, Siberia, Soviet Union, 1928 (photo: Margot Lubinski). Coll. Spaarnestad Photo, Haarlem

The Jewish Historical Museum is organising an exhibition of photographs by Kurt Lubinski (1899-1969). Although this German émigré photographer is now relatively unknown, he gained a significant reputation as a successful photojournalist for his travel reportages in the 1920s and 1930s, initially in Germany and later in the Netherlands.

Lubinski began his career at the end of the 1920s as a photographer at the Ullstein Verlag in Berlin. In 1933 he fled Nazi Germany and emigrated to the Netherlands. He received commissions from Dutch illustrated weeklies and was one of the first photojournalists to travel through the remote areas of the Soviet Union (Siberia and Central Asia), Africa and the American Deep South. He also travelled extensively in Europe, from Gibraltar to the Shetland Islands. In the 1930s Lubinski's photographs were among the first to acquaint the general public with images of strange cultures and exotic peoples.

Lubinski's countless reportages, the texts for which he wrote himself, speak of his great empathy for the underprivileged such as poor Russian peasants, nomads in Kazakhstan, dispossessed Native Americans and black street sweepers in the USA. People are always central to his photography. He observed how, throughout the world, the authenticity of age-old cultures was threatened by modernisation, industrialisation, urbanisation and political developments. His photographs remain, in our age of globalisation, a silent witness to a world that has largely disappeared.
Lubinski escaped to England before the outbreak of the Second World War and in 1943 he emigrated to the United States. There he abandoned photography, his archive was lost and his name fell into obscurity.

Kurt Lubinski, Berber, Morroco, North Africa, 1930. Coll. Spaarnestad Photo, Haarlem

Kurt Lubinski, Beekeeper, Veenendaal, 1933. Coll. Spaarnestad Photo, Haarlem

The JHM hopes that this exhibition will restore him to his rightful place in the history of Dutch photography. It is the first time that his work will be exhibited. The majority of the photographs in the exhibition are vintage prints from the collection of Spaarnestad Photo. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a book on Lubinski by our guest curator and art and photography historian Louis Zweers.