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Erich Salomon

The photographer reverently referred to as the "Houdini of Photography" and "the king of indiscreet" was born into a prominent banking family in Berlin, Germany on April 28, 1886. After a diverse education that included civil engineering, zoology, and a law doctorate degree, Mr. Salomon's life was forever altered by the intrusion of the First World War. After being captured in the First Battle of the Marne, he spent the next three years in a series of French prisoner of war camps. Following his release, he struggled to earn a living in the banking and stock exchange industries, both of which had been virtually paralyzed by German’s postwar economic depression. By the mid-1920s, his luck changed when he secured employment in the promotions department of Ullstein Verlag, which was at the time Germany's largest publisher of periodicals.

At the age of 41, Mr. Salomon had finally achieved some success as a billboard designer when he picked up his first camera. It was an Ermanox that was known for its rapid f.2 lens and large aperture. His innovative use of the handheld camera created a national sensation in 1928 when, by cutting a hole in his hat for his lens, he was able to take a photograph of a defendant who was on trial for murdering a police officer. The Ermanox's fast shutter speeds and dim lighting adaptability were perfectly suited to Mr. Salomon's style of capturing an important moment or event on film. Although the Ermanox remained his camera of choice, he also began using the Leica Model A 35-mm camera in 1932, which enabled him to capture "unguarded moments" with greater ease.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mr. Salomon photographed closed Parliamentary sessions, private foreign conferences, and celebrity dinner conversations. His unobtrusive approach produced snapshots that were immensely popular and aesthetically pleasing. He took critically acclaimed photographs of the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928 and of the Hague Conference in 1930, and is only one of two known photographers to have actually photographed the U. S. Supreme Court in session. He accomplished this feat by hiding his camera in an arm cast. Only a few of Mr. Salomon's Supreme Court photographs still exist.

Mr. Salomon, who was Jewish, was forced to relocate to the Netherlands with his family after Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany. He worked steadily as a photographer in The Hague, and made the fateful decision to refuse an offer from Life magazine, which would have required him to uproot his family again and move to the United States. After the German occupation of the Netherlands, Mr. Salomon and his family were arrested and incarcerated in a series of concentration camps. First, they were held in the Westerbork Transit Camp, then transferred to the Theresienstadt Family Camp in May, 1944. Two months' later, they were moved to Auschwitz where Erich Salomon, along with his wife and son, were killed on July 7, 1944. He left behind an impressive body of work that has inspired generations of photojournalists. Some of his most memorable snapshots appear in the compilation Celebrated Contemporaries in Unguarded Moments.



Ref:
2008 The Camera (Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish), p. 119.

2011 Comesana Press Photographs (URL: http://www.comesana.com/english/salomon.php).

2008 The Concise Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Burlington, MA: Focal Press/Elsevier), p. 196.

2006 Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 1381.

1998 Eyewitness: 150 Years of Photojournalism (New York: Time, Incorporated), p. 74.

2002 Photography: A Cultural History (London: Lawrence King Publishing Ltd.), p. 236.

1984 Simon Wiesenthal Annual, Vol. I (Chappaqua, NY: Rossel Books), p. 54.


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