Exhibition at the Neue Galerie New York | February 20, 2020 - June 8, 2020
... more than a photographer – Madame d'Ora and the history of Ullstein
In the April 1929 issue of Die Dame, the author of the article entitled "Die d'Ora" places the photographer Madame d'Ora in the unrivalled centre of his reflections. Certainly also as a result of his encounter with her, he describes her art, her abilities, her assertiveness full of recognition. Already the beginning of the text - flanked by the self-portrait of Madame d'Ora with Cat - announces the following peculiarities:
This d'Ora in Paris, who photographs so beautifully the beautiful women, is more than a photographer, she is a spiritual and good person. Also a courageous person. Whoever has experienced how the d'Ora set up her studio in Paris a few years ago, against housing shortage, competition, bread envy and all the other small and big annoyances that can spoil the life of a delicate creature, must have respect for this tender woman. One might say that she is as capable as a whole guy. But since she can't stand the word well, you have to look for another epithet for her. So for instance: she is a genius of good taste.
There are good reasons for this kind of homage: the Berlin publishing house Ullstein and Madame d'Ora have an intensive and decisive publication history. Die Dame, the magazine from the Berlin publishing house Ullstein founded in 1912, is one of the most important stages for the appearance of the d'Ora photographs. The editions of 1929 alone present numerous works in full-page title format and create editorial fashion themes under headings such as: Checked - large and small, A hat in five transformations, Lace dresses, For the journey, For the weekend, Musselin - Moiree, Satin - Chiffon or simply: Volants. The complete repertoire of a fashion and portrait photographer and expert in her field, such as Madame d'Ora, is put in the spotlight, and vice versa: the photographer can make full use of her scope and further develop her possibilities. The location of the studio in the fashion metropolis of Paris speaks of communicating new trends to the contemporary Berlin public. Not only the elaborately edited editorial themes of the lady such as travel, lifestyle, interior design, art or literature set standards. The follow-up products from the publishing house Ullstein are also placed here. How obvious to offer the successful Ullstein patterns at the end of a series of fashion photographs. How obvious also the reference to the Ullstein travel agencies and travel services after all kinds of photographically staged travel accessories.
But the appreciation of the Madame d'Ora from 1929 not only aims at the style and expression of the modern woman of the 1920s, she also quotes the photographer in the context of her own work: the role of the Berlin photographer Nicola Perscheid as a role model and the significance of the works of fine art. This view of the origin, in turn, brings Ullstein's publishing environment to consciousness. At that time, an artistic advisory board and groundbreaking employees such as Kurt Korff and Kurt Safranski, later co-creators of LIFE Magazine and co-founders of the photo agency Black Star, worked here - after the takeover of the Ullstein publishing house by a criminal National Socialist regime in Germany and the necessary emigration to the United States. As chief editor and managing director with Ullstein in Berlin, Korff and Safranski worked out substantial conditions for the development of the photography, for the increasing meaning of photographic works and far-reaching possibilities. The starting point for this lies in newspaper and magazine formats as diverse as Uhu, Der Querschnitt, Tempo, Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung or Grüne Post. At the same time as Madame d'Ora, a number of outstanding photographers therefore worked for the publications, partly with exclusive contracts for the publishing house Ullstein, which was at that time the most successful in Europe: Elli Marcus, Cecil Beaton, Hugo von Erfurth, Yva, Mario von Bucovich, Erich Salomon, Martin Munkácsi, André Kertész, Zander & Labisch, Becker & Maaß, Emit Otto Hoppé, James Abbé, Suse Byk.
The handwritten dedication on the d'Ora photograph by fashion designer J.C. d'Ahetze celebrates editor-in-chief Kurt Korff: "Le plus grand Directeur du plus grand Journal". In this tribute, the undersigned d'Ahetze and the photographer Madame d'Ora could have been close, if not in agreement.
Further informations can be found on the website of Neue Galerie New York.
The exhibition catalogue Madame d'Ora is published by Prestel New York, with essays by Katrin Bomhoff, Christian Brandstätter, Jean-Marc Dreyfus, Monika Faber, Esther Ruelfs, Lisa Silverman, Magdalena Vukovic.
You can find the entire collection on Madame d'Ora at www.ullsteinbild.de.