May 28, 2014

BPs (Before Photoshop)


I realize there are adults alive today who do not remember life before Photoshop. Though it seems like just yesterday to some of us, Photoshop version 1.0 was first introduced over 24 years ago! Before its existence, photographers and graphic designers who wished to remove imperfections or make improvements to their photographs were forced to either practice the skill known as “retouching” or “airbrushing” themselves or hire a professional to handle the task. Here is a brief discussion of the art of retouching based on a book titled Shortcuts to Photo Retouching for Commercial Use, published in 1946. And here is a fuller review of this handbook.  The line, “DON’T DO TOO MUCH!” from the book resonates well with my own minimal experience with photo retouching.

As a photography major in art school in the early 1990s, I was taught the basics of retouching. I remember clearly Professor Dennis Buck laying out all the materials we would need: fine brushes, a magnifying loop, water, and Spot Tone, a special type of transparent dye that photographic emulsion can absorb. He also advised us not to attempt to touch up our prints first thing in the morning, suggesting instead, “Be relaxed when you do it. Put on some music. Pour a glass of wine.” Subtlety was the name of the game. The rule for fine art photographers seemed to be: the less noticeable it was, the more successful your retouching work had been.

This rule did not seem to apply at all for graphic artists and for photographs being published in newspapers. Retouching has been on my mind lately as I process my way through many boxes of UJA and UFJC photographs. There are so many examples of highly unsubtle retouching in these files: backgrounds completely obscured by heavy opaque paint; body parts added or removed; individual people taken away from crowded group shots; and (my favorite) eyes uncannily repainted over blinking eyelids. A few examples follow below…





eyes glasses 2


UFJC - portraits - Albert Da Costa


The bolder approach suited images being mechanically reproduced in print. Holding these touched-up original prints, viewing them close up with the naked eye reveals heavy-handed alterations. But these alterations would not be noticeable when the image is greatly reduced in size and printed using the halftone process in ink on newsprint.




It seems that the graphic artists at work in the Public Relations department of the Joint Campaign frequently employed a variety of artists’ materials, including non-archival, opaque paints, as seen in the examples above. In the unretouched print above, a silhouette-shaped stain has been left on the back of this print (seen on the left, above). The stain was created when the unmarked print was stored in the file on top of this retouched print for decades. Acids from the paint on the retouched print have transferred into the back of the non-retouched print. Busy backgrounds were not always painted directly away. Sometimes the work was done on a clear plastic mask, as in the example below, laid over top the original print, so that the image could be used with or without the addition. This resembles slightly the Photoshop concept of layers.


The majority of prints in these files were never retouched, but those that were reveal a lot about retouching and printing techniques, and how the staff of the Joint Campaign used and changed the photographs in their files.

May 23, 2014

Jewish Education’s Tape Dispenser

Filed under: Uncategorized — susanwoodland @ 2:31 pm

I recently processed 4 boxes of files from the office of Rabbi Hyman Chanover, who worked in the Jewish Education Department of FJP.  The files extend from about 1957 to 1970, although we haven’t yet pinpointed exactly which years he worked there; he may have inherited the older files from a predecessor.

Originally, as was the case with most Federation departments, Jewish Education began as a Committee.  As the professional who worked with the lay leaders on this committee, Rabbi Chanover became involved with FJP’s Distribution Committee and  how funds were distributed to agencies with Jewish Education programs; with the Functional Committee, to which the committee proposed forming a central educational agency to do planning and curriculum work on behalf of the Federation agencies with Jewish Education components.

It appears that when his files were sent to off-site storage, the person packing them overzealously included some of the items from Rabbi Chanover’s desk, including a 12″ wooden ruler (made by Westcott in the U.S.A.), a package of KO-REC-TYPE (no more erasing! Corrects originals* in half the time [*use KO-REC-COPY to correct carbon copies] copyright 1966 by Eaton Allen Corp. on Kent Avenue in Brooklyn), an envelope filled with rubber bands (which seem to still have some stretch left in them after more than 40 years) and a lovely salmon-colored tape dispenser, vintage 1960s, with the tape still intact but dried up and hardened into the dispenser.

Rabbi Chanover's tape dispenser, circa 1970s

Rabbi Chanover’s tape dispenser, circa 1970s

Here is a close-up of the hardened tape:

Hardened tape

Hardened tape

When I compared it with the tape dispenser on my own desk, I found it was a lot heavier (1 pound 14 ounces), vs 1 pound 2 ounces.  It conjures up the era during which Rabbi Chanover worked at Federation.

Before we send these boxes off to storage, we will have learned enough to write a brief historical note about Rabbi Chanover’s contribution to Federation’s Jewish Education work, which in the 1970s was poised to receive a greater percentage of Federation funds as Jewish Education programs grew in importance among Federation’s leadership.

May 16, 2014

Bob Balaban’s Uncle Barney

Filed under: Uncategorized — susanwoodland @ 6:01 pm

While processing the UJA of Greater NY, Inc. files this spring, I noticed on the UJA campaign letterhead that one of the trustees in 1968 was a man named Barney Balaban.

Barney Balaban, Trustee of UJA of Greater New York, Inc., 1968

Barney Balaban, Trustee of UJA of Greater New York, Inc., 1968

Whoever Barney Balaban was, he was in good company.  Other trustees that year included William Rosenwald (son of Julius), Louis Lefkowitz, Charles Revson, and Edward M. M. Warburg, among others.

A quick look at Barney Balaban’s wikipedia entry indicated what I had suspected, that he was related to actor Bob Balaban – in fact, Barney was Bob’s uncle.

The online archive of the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) produced a number of articles further linking Barney Balaban with UJA, and revealing how long his connection with UJA had lasted.  Following are links to just 2 of the articles:

As president of Paramount Pictures for nearly thirty years, Barney Balaban was successful in soliciting large donations for UJA campaigns from other film industry executives, as well as getting entertainment stars like Eddie Cantor to make personal appearances and accept awards.

In 1956 as co-chair of UJA’s summer campaign, Barney Balaban was instrumental in raising $5,000,000.

And in a book entitled, “An Uneasy Relationship: American-Jewish Leadership and Israel, 1948-1957” by Zvi Ganin, there is a surprising mention of Barney Balaban in connection with President Eisenhower.


May 8, 2014

Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities material digitized

Front cover

Front cover of Annual Report, 1910

We have recently digitized and made available a significant selection of archival material from the Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities, including their Board of Directors meetings minutes from 1909-1944, annual reports from 1910-1920, and an interesting 1938 study entitled “Study of the Jewish Community Centers Affiliated with the Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities.”

The Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities (BFJC) was formed in 1909 and in 1944 merged into the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City to form the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities supported local Jewish social service agencies with funding, administrative and other professional aid. Agencies in the Brooklyn Federation included Beth Moses Hospital, Brooklyn Free Loan Association, Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum, First Hebrew Day Nursery, Hebrew Educational Society, Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, and numerous neighborhood YM-YWHAs.

The minutes, annual reports, and study are available online through the Center for Jewish History’s Digital Collections. The Brooklyn Federation material has also been aggregated into a collection which can be searched and re-organized by title and date.

Also, at no additional fee, it bears mentioning that the UJA-Federation of New York Oral History Project interviews and transcripts have been collected and are available all in one place, right here. These interviews can be searched by subject, date, interviewee and/or interviewer, as well as many other elements of the metadata for each digitized oral history interview.

May 2, 2014

Bridge and UJA-Federation

This week, while processing some UFJC Public Relations files of newspaper clippings, I encountered this:



Being fairly ignorant of the game of bridge, but nonetheless having previously encountered this column dedicated to the discussion of bridge strategy in the New York Times, I thought it was unusual that UJA-Federation was mentioned there. But as I proceeded through subsequent years’ worth of clippings, I found a few other Times bridge columns mentioning UJA-Federation and its annual tournament. Indeed, it turns out that the Times bridge column regularly covered this charity event over the years, as a search of the newspaper’s database brings up many columns mentioning UJA-Federation. We found columns from as early as 1967 and as recently as February of this year.

While these bridge columns are mainly concerned with the game play itself, there is some UJA-Federation history to be gleaned from them as well. Raising many thousands of dollars each year, the tournament is routinely referred to in the column as “the world’s most successful charity bridge game,” and has been staged in such auspicious settings as the Harmonie Club and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The event was organized by the Women’s Division, principally through Tubby Stayman, who has been involved with it since its inception over fifty years ago and who remains active with the tournament today, at age 90.

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