thiscangobacktothearchives

June 19, 2015

Lots of UJA-Fed Photos Now Viewable Online

Good News! We now have nearly 500 images from the UJA-Federation collection selected, digitized, cataloged, and available online! Believe it or not, this represents just a small selection of all the photographs in the collection. It contains 71 bankers boxes of photographs from each of the four subgroups of the collection (Federation, UJA, Joint Campaign, and UJF). Each box holds an average of 850 prints, so, we estimate the grand total of photographs to be around 60,000.

The dates of the photos range from as early as the 1910s up to as recently as the 2000s, with the bulk of the material landing in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Both UJA and Federation sought to document and promote their accomplishments, events, and prominent personalities through these images. As these institutions merged, the Joint Campaign and UJA-Fed continued the practice of documenting their activities and their people, so researchers will have an unusually rich visual record of the whole organization to draw upon.

While the majority are black and white 8 x 10″ prints, many other sizes and formats, such as 35mm color slides, various types of color polaroid prints, and negatives of all sizes, are included as well. Below are a precious few for you to sample, but be sure to check out all the digitized photos in our digital gallery when you a chance.

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Campers at Hebrew Orphan Asylum Camp

Sophie Tucker, 1965

Sophie Tucker, 1965

“My Dad Upped His Pledge,” 1977

Rosenwald and Tisch at Special Gifts Dinner, 1974

Rosenwald and Tisch at Special Gifts Dinner, 1974

Silbert donating to Israel Emergency Fund, approximately 1970s

Silbert donating to Israel Emergency Fund, approximately 1970s

February 25, 2015

“Uncle Henry” and the Irene Kaufmann Settlement

In processsing any collection as massive as that of the UJA-Federation of New York, an archivist is bound to encounter files that fall slightly beyond the expected scope of the project once in a while. Case in point: a folder found in the Federation Photographs sub-series titled “Irene Kaufmann Settlement.” Here is one our favorite images from this folder:

Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Milk give away event at Irene Kaufamann Settlement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 1927

This file contains 16 other photographs, as well as historical background on the Irene Kaufmann Settlement (IKS), and biographical information on Henry Kaufmann.

When I first encountered the folder, I presumed IKS was one of over a hundred organizations in the New York City area that Federation had funded during the 20th Century. I had seen appearances of the Kaufmann surname in various other parts of the collection and I knew that FJP of New York funded the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, a group of day camps with locations in Rockland County, Suffolk County, and Staten Island, which are still in operation today.

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Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds dedication invitation, 1953

After that first cursory glance, however, I realized that IKS was actually not located in New York City – or even anywhere nearby – but rather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! Henry Kaufmann, known affectionately to many as “Uncle Henry,” became wealthy through his family’s successful downtown Pittsburgh department store, Kaufmann’s. Henry put up the initial capital to build the Irene Kaufmann Settlement in 1909, naming it after a daughter of his who had met an untimely death. He continued to contribute funding to IKS over the years, as did the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Pittsburgh. A short history of IKS can be seen here on the Rauh Jewish Archives of the Heinz History Center’s website. This is the same person after whom the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in the New York City area are named. Kaufmann retired relatively early from the retail business in 1913 and devoted the remaining four decades of his life to philanthropic giving in Pittsburgh and New York, so it is easy to see how a file on a Pittsburgh community center found its way into the UJA-Federation of New York archives.

Program for a Henry Kaufmann birthday celebration at Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Program for a Henry Kaufmann birthday celebration at Irene Kaufmann Settlement

October 23, 2014

Cultural Arts at Federation

The files of the Cultural Arts Department in the Community Services Division (8 Bankers boxes) at Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP) were recently processed. From 1979 to 1986, the date range of files in the collection, the Cultural Arts Coordinator (CAC) position at Federation was held by three people: Terry E. Sutton (1979-1981), Jeanne B. Siegel (1981-1984), and Rabbi Daniel Landsman (1984-1986). The CAC position was established under the Community Centers and Y’s umbrella and it is unclear whether the position continued after the merger of Federation with UJA in 1986. No additional files have been found.

According to the documentation, prior to 1979 FJP and its agencies had limited involvement or interest in Jewish arts and culture programming. It was not until the 1970s that Federation began to encourage agency programming that emphasized a Jewish component. For example, in the field of Jewish Education, outreach to unaffiliated Jews and informal Jewish education was a low priority goal. In 1979 FJP began to expand its role into the area of Jewish arts and culture when they obtained a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for $5,000. It was this grant that served as the leverage for obtaining an additional $22,500 from three outside foundations. In 1980, the Cultural Arts Committee of Federation created an incentive grant program to see if seed grants could influence new initiatives in agency programming in the Cultural Arts.

From 1980 to 1985, the CAC compiled the “Guide to the Arts and Culture: The New York Jewish Experience”, a listing of Jewish art events in New York. It was published in The Jewish Week, and cosponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC) and the Jewish Art Subsidy Fund (JASF). It started out as a quarterly four page supplement and became a weekly full page feature. Even if one could not attend the concerts, plays, lectures, or special events, it made one feel that there was something exciting going on. In 1983, the first of three Jewish Arts Festivals of Long Island was held, and the William Petschek Music Fund was established, both demonstrating Federation’s new commitment to the Jewish arts.

The Cultural Arts Coordinator was a leader and specialist in the cultural and arts worlds. The CAC acted on behalf of Federation to carry out a variety of functions in providing assistance to agencies and coordinating activities throughout the metropolitan area. The Coordinator provided technical assistance to arts workers at Federation’s community centers and other agencies, through individual consultation, workshops and seminars. Topics included the use of media, grantsmanship and public relations. In addition to coordinating activities and programs among the community centers, the CAC created a clearinghouse for the performing artists who joined Federation’s affiliate artists program, to encourage the development of programs by individual centers throughout the New York City area. In 1984, the clearinghouse turned into a directory of Jewish Artists, a published resource guide for agencies’ use. Finally, the Coordinator participated in fundraising to help agencies submit proposals to government sources.

The Cultural Arts files are interesting for their coverage of different facets of arts and culture and for giving a flavor of the Jewish arts scene in the 1970s and early 1980s. There are many files on the directory, which was called, “In The Jewish Tradition: Directory of Performing Artists.” Included are the files and photographs of artists who were included in the Directory as well as files of artists to be published in its Supplement. The artists were exclusively performing artists, including actors/actresses, singers, mimes, storytellers and poets. Below are several images from the Artists’ directory files.

Aida Weiss

Aida Weiss, international songstress

Donald Heller, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (puppet theater)

Donald Heller, The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (puppet theater)

Joe Elias (folksinger)

Joe Elias, folksinger

The Kol Golan Duo, folksinging duo

The Kol Golan Duo, folksinging duo

The Western Wind, Vocal Ensemble

The Western Wind, Vocal Ensemble

June 12, 2014

Retouching Update

Earlier this month I discussed the evidence of some rather heavy-handed old-fashioned photograph retouching work I have been encountering in the course of processing the UJA, UFJC, and FJP photographs subseries. Almost immediately after publishing this post, I found the most subtle example of retouching I have seen so far. It was particularly noticeable because there are two similar prints: one retouched, the other not. The unretouched photo appears immediately below and a very similar shot with slight retouching in the woman’s hair, blouse and hand can be seen below the first, if you study it for a moment.

FJP Miscellaneous

Here is a little closer view. The photographer or designer must have used a very fine paint brush.

Retouch Detail

So, some of the retouching work in this collection was quite subtle, at least occasionally. There is definitely less of this subtle variety overall, however.

Also since my previous post, I learned from a designer friend who is experienced with both digital and analog techniques that the opaque background paint that features prominently in a few of the photographs included in that post is Pro White Retouching Ink and it is apparently still available for sale. She likened the 20th Century use of Pro White to the contemporary use of the “silo” (short for “silhouette”) or “clipping path” Photoshop tools.

May 28, 2014

BPs (Before Photoshop)

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

March 12, 2014

UJA Photographs

Eleanor Roosevelt at Person To Person, 1960

Eleanor Roosevelt at Person To Person, 1960

This image of Eleanor Roosevelt attending a United Jewish Appeal “Person To Person” event in 1960 is from a recently processed 20 carton group of UJA photographs containing approximately 18,000 prints and occupying 24 cubic feet. The vast majority of prints are black and white 8 x 10 inch prints, though some prints of smaller sizes, a number of negatives and a few slides are also included. The date range of this group is from the late 1940s through 1973. The photos are primarily organized chronologically and then alphabetically according to division, event, or community name, though some files on the Joint Distribution Committee, on Keren Hayesod, and on the state of Israel are included among the late 1940s boxes. The majority of images show posed group portraits or candid views of agency board members, agency executives, and celebrity guests attending special events and fundraising parties. A few famous names included in the group of photographs are: Nelson Rockefeller, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, Eddie Cantor, Danny Kaye, Shelley Winters, Gerald Ford, Moshe Dayan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hal Linden, Golda Meir, Joan Rivers, George McGovern, David Ben-Gurion, and George Romney. Before sending this sub-series off to storage, I selected a few samples and digitized them. We have uploaded these dozen images as a Flickr set, visible here.

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