The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2022

All Issues
FEB 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

90. 2 Fifth Avenue, 131 West 15th Street, 200 and 220 West 21st Street

Some six years after the death of his beloved wife from cancer, a photographer asks his assistant to finally take apart his late spouse’s bed. After all, he is nearly 90 and it’s time to put his life in order. In the course of disassembling the bed, the assistant comes upon some boxes of enigmatic black-and-white photographs—many of them depicting old disjointed dolls, possibly happened upon at flea markets or deliberately posed in a studio, it’s impossible to know—credit stamped with a woman’s name. When asked about the prints, the photographer explains that he had met their maker in Paris in the 1930s where she was a reporter. Like him, she’s from Hungary. When she arrived in New York in 1946, he was her only contact. After her death 18 years later—she was murdered, he says—her photographs came to him. Within two years, the elderly photographer has died and his assistant is quickly consumed with organizing his many decades of negatives, prints and papers. As a result, it is not until nearly 30 years later that the woman’s photographs are exhibited and a photo expert begins researching her life. Alas, apart from a 1938 French press card, the appearance of her name on the manifest of the ship she took to New York, several entries in old telephone directories that show her living in two locations in Chelsea and a brief official notice of her death (with no cause indicated), there is nothing in the historical record to tell us anything about this artist, apart from the 100-odd photographs that survive her.

(André and Elizabeth Kertész, Robert Gurbo, Anna Barna, Sarah Morthland)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

close

The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2022

All Issues