Erwin Blumenfeld (1897 – 1969) was a famous American photographer of German origin.
In the 1930s, he published collages mocking Adolf Hitler. In 1936, he emigrated to Paris. With the German occupation, he was interned in a concentration camp in 1940 because he was Jewish. In 1941, he could escape to the United States.
In the 1940s and 1950s he became famous for his fashion photography, working for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and also for artistic nude photography. In the 1960s, he worked on his autobiography which found no publisher because it was considered to be too ironic towards society, and was published only after his death.
Erwin Blumenfeld was a renowned photographer whose work is situated between 1930 and 1969. He was born in Berlin on 26 January 1897, moved to the Netherlands late 1918, and started a professional career in photography in 1934. He moved to France in 1936. From 1937 to 1939, he published in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. When the Second World War broke out, he was interned in French camps as an alien, but was eventually allowed to leave for New York in 1941. He became a US citizen in 1946. His more personal work is in black and white; his commercial work in fashion, much for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, is mostly in color. In both media he was a great innovator. In black and white he did all his work personally in the dark room. In color he drew on his extensive background in classical and modern painting. He married Lena Citroen in the Netherlands in 1921 and had three children there: Lisette, Henry and Yorick. He died in Rome on 4 July 1969.
For details of his life one should read his picaresque autobiography, which he wrote in German and on which he worked from 1955 till 1969. It has been published in German under the title: Einbildungsroman, Eichborn Verlag, 1998. It also has come out in English under the title: Eye to I, Thames and Hudson, 1999. It was first published in French under the title: Jadis et Daguerre, Robert Laffont, 1975, with a re-edition by Editions de la Martinière, 1996. It also has come out in Dutch: Spiegelbeeld, Uitgeverij de Harmonie, 1980. There were several earlier German editions under the title: Durch tausendjährige Zeit.
To appreciate his work in photography, the principal publications of his work are the following:
- My One Hundred Best Photos, Bentelli Verlag, 1979. Only black and white.
- A Passion for Beauty, Thames and Hudson, 1996.
- The Naked and the Veiled, Thames and Hudson, 1999
- Erwin Blumenfeld. 55 Photos, Phaidon Press 2004 ISBN 0-7148-4193-5
- The photo book
For his early work:
- Helen Adkins, Erwin Blumenfeld. I was nothing but a Berliner. Dada Montages 1916 – 1933, Hatje Cantz
Ostfildern 2008 ISBN 978-3-7757-2127-1
A lesser-known aspect of Blumenfeld's image-making is his films. Captured between 1958 and 1964, these were mainly pilots for beauty commercials, aimed at his key beauty clients Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal. The full holdings can be seen on SHOWstudio.com
Erwin Blumenfeld had numerous exhibits of his work, among the most important were the following:
- Rath Museum in Geneva, Switzerland, 1979
- Musée Pompidou, Paris, France 1981
- Barbican Museum, London, UK, 1996. This exhibit travelled to many cities, including Zurich, Lausanne, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam.
- A show of his Dutch period, has run from 9 September till 26 November 2006, in the Hague Museum of Photography, Netherland. A catalogue/book has been published for this occasion Erwin Blumenfeld His Dutch Years 1919 to 1936 by Veenman Publishers ISBN 90-8690-033-X
- A new exhibit will open in June 2012 Museum Nicéphore-Niépce Chalon-sur-Saône,France, 16 June till 16 September 2012, Studio Blumenfeld, New York, 1941-1960.