Focus on the Soul: The Photographs of Lotte Jacobi is the first major retrospective in the U.S. to feature Jacobi’s famous portrait photographs as well as her under-examined stage photographs from pre-World War II Berlin and New York, her abstract Photogenics series, and documentary images taken during her travels through Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Americas.
Although Jacobi (1896-1990) is regarded mostly as a portrait photographer, she was also a leading figure in the fields of abstract and documentary photography as well as a principal contributor to the development of landscape and narrative photography. Throughout her career, Jacobi developed her innate skills and challenged herself by continually setting new goals and pushing the artistic boundaries of photography.
Lotte Jacobi’s chosen vocation was essentially a birthright. Her family’s involvement with photography began with a fabled encounter between Jacobi’s great-grandfather Samuel Jacobi and the French inventor of photography, Louis Jacques Mantle Daguerre. From this meeting shortly after the invention of photography, Samuel Jacobi returned to the Prussian town of Thorn (now part of Poland) with a camera and a license to practice photography. Lotte Jacobi’s grandfather Alexander and father Sigismund inherited the business, and, over the years, the family opened several studios.
Having little interest in physical appearances, Jacobi sought to make visible the intangibles of her subject. The resulting psychological impact of her best photographs is such that the viewers feel as if they might have known the sitter, visited the city, or walked the landscape. In an inexplicable way, the viewer forms an association on a personal level and is drawn unwittingly into the photograph. This rapport between viewer and image is largely the result of Jacobi’s approach.
Focus on the Soul: The Photographs of Lotte Jacobi is on view from June 18 to September 5, 2004. This exhibition has been organized by the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire. Presentation of the exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts is made possible by the Women’s Committee and the Members of NMWA.