Monday, July 1, 2013

The Amazing Portraits of Shlomo and Sonia Narinsky --
Jewish Photographers Exiled by the Turks, Swept Up by the Nazis

"A Spanish Jew [Sephardi] of Jerusalem"
(Library of Congress, circa 1921)
Turn a virtual corner in the Library of Congress' digitalized photo archives and you never know what you'll find.  It happened many times since the launch of this site two years ago, and it just happened again.

Within the vast collection of the American Colony Photographic Department Collection (roughly 1890 - 1946) we discovered amazing picture and postcard portraits taken by Shlomo and Sonia Narinsky. The photographs were sold by the American Colony's souvenir store located inside Jerusalem's Old City near Jaffa Gate.  
"A Vernomito (sic) [Yemenite] Jew
in Jerusalem" (circa 1921)

Born in the Ukraine in 1885, Shlomo Narinsky studied art in Moscow, Paris and Berlin before moving to Palestine where he set up a studio. 

In 1916, Shlomo and his wife were exiled to Egypt by the Turkish rulers. 

They returned to the Land of Israel after the British captured the territory in 1918.

"An Orthodox Jew of Jerusalem"
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, father of
modern Hebrew (Wikiversity,
circa 1912)
In 1932, the Narinskys opened a studio in Paris, but Shlomo was arrested when the Nazis captured France. He was later exchanged for a German spy caught in Palestine after the intercession of David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi.

A rabbi and his grandson (Ynet News)

They returned to Israel, eventually moving to Haifa where Shlomo taught as a photography teacher.  He died in 1960, relatively unknown.

Shlomo Narinsky was also trained as a painter, and some of his photographs almost reflect the post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh's wheat field series.

Arab "sorting his wheat."  Note the farmer's stance, angle
of his tool and the sky, and compare to Van Gogh's
painting. See also Narinsky's "Fishermen at Jaffa"
Van Gogh -- Harvesting wheat in the Alpilles
Valley (1888) 
Click on the picture to enlarge.

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  1. Eliezer Ben-Yehudah died in 1922 so which Eliezer or which Ben-Yehudah was it?

  2. I checked now. It was Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi