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“The Life of a Station.”

  • Photographer Tim N. Gidal’s first reportage for [i]Picture Post[/i] magazine after his emigration to London was devoted to Victoria Station, observing travellers and their companions as they depart and arrive.
  • Photoessay
  • “The Life of a Station.”

    Word Count: 5

  • Tim Gidal
  • 1939
  • 1939
  • Victoria Station, Victoria, London SW1.

  • English
  • London (GB)
  • Photographer Tim N. Gidal’s first reportage for Picture Post magazine after his emigration to London was devoted to Victoria Station, observing travellers and their companions as they depart and arrive.

    Word Count: 31

  • Tim N. Gidal (1909–1996) was a photojournalist who worked for various German daily and weekly newspapers in the 1920s, including the Münchner Illustrierte Presse. This latter contact would facilitate his move to London. Gidal, whose real name was Nachum Tim Ignaz Gidalewitsch, had first emigrated to Basel in 1933 and then to Palestine in 1936. In 1938, he came to London at the invitation of the journalist Stefan Lorant, the former editor-in-chief of the Münchner Illustrierte Presse (Gidal 1982, 575). Himself an émigré who had arrived in London in 1934, Lorant conceived and built up newspapers and magazines such as Picture Post and Lilliput (Dogramaci 2011; Hallett 2006). He was joined by a whole circle of emigrated photographers whom he knew from his time in Munich and whom he helped obtain new commissions. These included Kurt Hutton (born Kurt Hübschmann, 1893–1960) and Felix H. Man (born Felix Sigismund Baumann, 1893–1985) as well as Tim N. Gidal. Gidal had posted his first story for the Picture Post from Palestine: “War in the Holyland” appeared on 1 November 1938 (Gidal 1938).

    Tim N. Gidal’s first reportage for Picture Post after his arrival in London was devoted to Victoria Station and portrayed everyday life at this busy station over nine pages. “The Life of a Station” (Picture Post, vol. 6, 11 February 1939, pp. 13-21) observes travellers and their companions as they depart and arrive. The eye-catcher was a half-page shot of a farewell scene: a group of women and men wave farewell to unseen passengers on the train. Most of the group are smiling, but a woman in the foreground looks sad. Sadness and joy are condensed in the picture story, with the group’s gaze turned away from the photographer and directed towards the invisible passengers on the train. The train itself floods into the picture at an angle, conveying the dynamics of travel and the busy Victoria station. In Gidal’s photographs the means of transport becomes a symbol for life as a journey; the reportage combines mobility, technology and emotion. By using this image as a hook for the story, editor-in-chief Lorant conveyed a very specific view of the transport hub that was Victoria Station, as a place of poignancy and mixed emotions, of change and farewell.

    The following pages go on to feature the station employees and the various tasks they are involved in, followed by a double page showing travellers waiting patiently, dreamily or wearily for their departure. With his Leica 35mm camera, Gidal was able to photograph discreetly; he shows people at close range, often from behind. They are rarely aware of his presence, at least there is hardly any eye contact between photographed and photographer. Gidal’s photographs focus on people and social interactions and thus give the station a face. In the process, photographic ‘mistakes’ occurred, such as halos, cropping and blurring, but these only emphasise the immediacy of the photographic narrative.

    The humanisation of content, which captured the interest and empathy of its readers, was an important feature of the Picture Post and a key to its success. The human scale was expressed in terms of content and closeness to real life and, photographically and artistically, in the casualness of the shots, with the photographer at the same eye level as his subjects.
    Tim N. Gidal had already developed his journalistic approach in the late 1920s, as evidenced by his work for the Münchner Illustrierte Presse and photo essays such as “Servus Kumpel” (Münchner Illustrierte Presse 1929, 747), a report on a meeting of the “Brotherhood of Vagabonds”, or “Ferienzeit auf Fahrt” (Münchner Illustrierte Presse 1929, 1163), a photo essay on a scout camp in Thuringia. Similar to his photojournalistic work for the Picture Post in English exile, Gidal’s reportages in Munich show a sympathetic examination of content and his moving camera perspective, that unites close-ups and under- or overhead views, visually enlivens the stories.

    For Picture Post, Gidal repeatedly looked into areas that were normally hidden from the public eye, such as the actors waiting in “Below Stage” (Picture Post, vol. 2, 1939, pp. 34–35). He gave visibility to those who were often overlooked, like the ticket seller in “Box Office” (Picture Post, vol. 2, 1939, 21–27). Gidal also found new subjects for Picture Post: on the one hand, he photographed socially critical reportages, for example on unemployment, and on the other, he also devoted himself to city portraits and showbusiness stories.

    Picture Post offered emigrant photographers like Tim N. Gidal an opportunity to present their photojournalistic work to a wide public shortly after their arrival – only 16 weeks after its first publication, Picture Post had a circulation of 1.35 million copies sold (Osman 1986, 84). In addition, along with other emigrated Picture Post photographers, Gidal contributed to the formation of a new visual media language. Gidal’s  Picture Post photographs, like those of his colleagues Felix H. Man and Kurt Hutton, established a visual language of the everyday, the personal, the immediate and the narrative (Schaber 2002, 61). Photojournalism as a “medium of human content of mass communication” (Gidal 1993, 10) was popularised by the presence in England of German-speaking photographers who had already contributed to the establishment of the genre in the Weimar Republic. In the literature, the first issue of Picture Post magazine on 1 October 1938 is even referred to as a turning point for British photojournalism, thus attributing a pioneering role to its founder and editor-in-chief Stefan Lorant and the photographers he employed (Osman 1986, 83). However, the photographs in Picture Post – unlike those previously published in the Münchner Illustrierte Presse – appeared without credit of authorship.

    Stefan Lorant left England and the Picture Post in July 1940, by which time Tim N. Gidal was also no longer resident in London, but travelling around the British Commonwealth producing reportages. From 1942 to 1945 he was assigned to the British Eighth Army as one of their reporters and photographed for Parade, the official army magazine (Gidal 1972, 92). He produced numerous reportages, travel photographs and photobooks. Gidal also continued to publish photographs in the Picture Post from time to time, until 1946. The photographer moved in 1948 to New York, where he worked for Life magazine and was later able to take up a post at the New School for Social Research (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 165).
    Tim N. Gidal, who received his doctorate in 1935 at the University of Basel with Edgar Salin on “Bildberichterstattung und Presse” (Photojournalism and the Press), returned to address the theoretical side of photojournalism and published a history of the subject (Gidal 1972; 1982; 1993). He also wrote a pictorial history of the Jews in Germany (Gidal 1988).

    Word Count: 1074

  • Tim N. Gidal. “The Life of a Station.” Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, pp. 13.
  • Tim N. Gidal. “The Life of a Station.” Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, pp. 14–15.
    Tim N. Gidal. “The Life of a Station.” Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, pp. 16–17.
    Tim N. Gidal. “The Life of a Station.” Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, pp. 18–19.
    Tim N. Gidal. “The Life of a Station.” Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, pp. 20–21.
    Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, cover (Private Archive). Issue containing Tim N. Gidal’s photo-essay “The Life of a Station”.
    Picture Post, vol. 2, no. 6, 11 February 1939, list of contents (Private Archive). Tim N. Gidal’s photo-essay “The Life of a Station” appears at the top.
  • Dogramaci, Burcu. “Der Kreis um Stefan Lorant. Von der Münchner Illustrierten Presse zur Picture Post.” Netzwerke des Exils. Künstlerische Verflechtungen, Austausch und Patronage nach 1933, edited by Burcu Dogramaci and Karin Wimmer, Gebr. Mann Verlag, 2011, pp. 163–183.

    Dogramaci, Burcu, and Helene Roth. “Fotografie als Mittler im Exil: Fotojournalismus bei Picture Post in London und Fototheorie und -praxis an der New School for Social Research in New York.” Vermittler*innen zwischen den Kulturen, edited by Inge Hansen-Schaberg et al., special issue of Zeitschrift für Museum und Bildung, no. 86–87, 2019, pp. 13–44.

    Eskildsen, Ute. “Der Beginn einer Karriere am Ende der Weimarer Republik.” Tim Gidal – Bilder der 30er Jahre, exh. cat. Fotografisches Kabinett, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1984, pp. 3–6.

    Gidal, Tim N. “War in the Holyland.” Picture Post, vol. 1, no. 6, 1938, pp. 18–22.

    Gidal, Tim N. Deutschland – Beginn des modernen Photojournalismus (Bibliothek der Photographie, 1). Bucher Verlag, 1972.

    Gidal, Tim N. “Modern photojournalism – The first years.” creative camera, July/August 1982, pp. 572–579.

    Gidal, Tim Nachum. Die Juden in Deutschland von der Römerzeit bis zur Weimarer Republik. Bertelsmann, 1988.

    Gidal, Tim N. Chronisten des Lebens. Die moderne Fotoreportage. Edition q, 1993.

    Hallett, Michael. Stefan Lorant. Godfather of Photojournalism. Scarecrow Press, 2006.

    Holzer, Anton. Rasende Reporter. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Fotojournalismus. Primus Verlag, 2014.

    Holzer, Anton. “Nachrichten und Sensationen. Die Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung und der deutsche Fotojournalismus vor 1945.” Die Erfindung der Pressefotografie. Aus der Sammlung Ullstein 1894–1945, exh. cat. Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, 2017, pp. 26–37.

    Hopkinson, Amanda. “Picture Post: ‘Strongly political and anti-Fascist’.” Insiders Outsiders. Refugees from Nazi Europe and their Contribution to British Visual Culture, edited by Monica Bohm-Duchen, Lund Humphries, 2019, pp. 121–127.

    Hopkinson, Tom, editor. Picture Post 1938–50. Penguin Books, 1979.

    Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933–1945, exh. cat. Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1986.

    Münchner Illustrierte Presse, Munich, 1923–1945.

    Osman, Colin. “Der Einfluß deutscher Fotografen im Exil auf die britische Pressefotografie.” Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933–1945, exh. cat. Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1986, pp. 83–87.

    Picture Post, London, 1938–1957.

    Schaber, Irme. “‘Die Kamera ist ein Instrument der Entdeckung...’. Die Großstadtfotografie der fotografischen Emigration der NS-Zeit in Paris, London und New York.” Exilforschung. Ein internationales Jahrbuch, vol. 20: Metropolen des Exils, edited by Claus-Dieter Krohn et al., edition text + kritik, 2002, pp. 53–73.

    Schumann, Klaus. “Der Mann mit den sechs Leben. Die ungewöhnliche Karriere des Stefan Lorant.“ Süddeutsche Zeitung, 14/15 December 1985.

    Willimowski, Thomas. Stefan Lorant – Eine Karriere im Exil. wvb, 2005.

    Wyers, Frank, and Klaus Honnef. Und sie haben Deutschland verlassen ... müssen. Fotografen und ihre Bilder 1928–1997, exh. cat. Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, Bonn, 1997.

    Word Count: 404

  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • London
  • No
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "“The Life of a Station.”." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 12-05-2021.
  • Lilliput

    The magazine Lilliput, founded by the émigré journalist Stefan Lorant in 1937, gave work to emigrated artists and photographers such as Kurt Hutton, Walter Suschitzky, Walter Trier and Edith Tudor-Hart.

    Word Count: 29

    Tim Gidal
    PhotographerPublisherArt Historian
    New York

    Tim Gidal was a German-Jewish photographer, publisher and art historian emigrating in 1948 emigrated to New York. Besides his teaching career, he worked as a photojournalist and, along with his wife Sonia Gidal, published youth books.

    Word Count: 35

    New School for Social Research
    Academy/Art SchoolPhoto SchoolUniversity / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute
    New York

    During the 1940s and 1950s emigrated graphic designers and photographers, along with artists and intellectuals, were given the opportunity to held lectures and workshops at the New School for Social Research.

    Word Count: 31