Lotte Jacobi

(1896 - 1990) American (b. Germany)


Lotte Jacobi was born in Thorn, Germany, and took her first photograph with a pinhole camera at the age of twelve. She studied literature and art history at the Academy of Posen from 1912 to 1917 before continuing the tradition established by her photographer father, grandfather, and great-grandfather (who had studied with Daguerre), and attending the Bavarian State Academy of Photography and the University of Munich. She managed her father's studio in Berlin from 1927 until 1935. Her Berlin portraits of such figures as Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill and László Moholy-Nagy, were stylistically influenced by both Alfred Stieglitz and Albert Renger-Patzsch, and illustrate the city's vibrant cultural life. Jacobi fled the Nazis and opened her own studio in New York, which she maintained until 1955. Her first solo American exhibition was held in 1937, and she was included in the Museum of Modern Art's 1942 exhibition Twentieth Century Portraits. After closing her studio, Jacobi moved to Deering, New Hampshire, where she maintained a studio and gallery from 1963 for 1970. She co-founded the photography department at the Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester in 1970. Jacobi's work was shown at ICP in the 1979 exhibition Recollections: Ten Women of Photography, and also featured in a retrospective at the museum in 1993.
When Jacobi left Germany, she had already established herself as a leading photographers of major cultural personalities. She built her reputation on the strength of her portraiture, but later in her career as her surroundings changed, so did the character of her work: in the 1950s, she began to make abstract images and landscapes. Her "photogenics" of the 1950s are cameraless photographs, in which pieces of glass or twisted cellophane were used to interrupt the beams from a flashlight positioned above a piece of photographic paper.
Meredith Fisher
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 219.
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