Start Over

Lilly Joss

  • Lilly Joss was an émigré freelance photographer in New York. She worked for the Black Star photo agency and magazines and was also a portrait and theatre photographer.
  • Lilly
  • Joss
  • Lilly Joseph
    Lilly Joss-Reich

  • 28-06-1911
  • Vienna (AT)
  • 31-03-2006
  • New York City (US)
  • Photographer
  • Lilly Joss was an émigré freelance photographer in New York. She worked for the Black Star photo agency and magazines and was also a portrait and theatre photographer.

    Word Count: 28

  • Portrait of Lilly Joss, detail from an article, published in Barbara Green. “Magazine Photographer Lilly Joss.” The Camera, March 1948, p. 42 (Private Archive Helene Roth).
  • Lilly Joss (born Lilly Joseph) and her mother Ida Joseph arrived in New York in 1941, having passed an unscheduled month in Casablanca (Morocco), rather than in their planned destination of England. In the late 1930s, there were a lot of displaced European refugees in Casablanca and Lilly Joseph tried to earn a living by teaching German. She also captured life on the streets with her Rolleiflex camera, vividly depicting through her photographs of locals and emigrants the peculiar situation in Casablanca. Some of these remarkable everyday street scenes are in the photo collection at the Wien Museum, Austria. On 20 November 1941, the two women left Casablanca and, with the help of Lilly Joseph uncle, obtained affidavits for the United States. A letter of recommendation from French Vogue magazine to the Black Star photo agency made it possible for Lilly Joseph to start a new career in New York. As her last name was considered “too German” she Americanised it to Joss and, after marrying Richard Reich in 1958, called herself Lilly Joss Reich. Several commissions for Black Star helped her on her way and were published in such magazines as, Life, Ladies' Home Journal, Popular Photography and The Camera, as well as in newspapers.

    Born in 1911 in Vienna, after finishing school, Lilly Joseph started an apprenticeship at the portrait and theatre studio of Mira Schmiegelski in Berlin and finished in 1933. As Lilly Joseph was interested in photo-chemical processes she took parallel courses at the Technical University in Berlin. She also made several trips to Paris, where her sister lived and which at the time was an artistic and cultural hub. In 1936/37 she opened her own apartment-studio in Paris on the Rue Erlanger. She quickly gained recognition as a portrait photographer and won several commissions, including from Albert Einstein and Baron de Rothschild. She also worked for the Austrian pavilion for the 1937 World Exhibition. In 1939, before Lilly Joseph and her mother left Paris, she hid all her photo equipment and glass negatives in a basement. However, they were discovered by the Nazis and confiscated. Only a collection of recipes for pastries, which her mother had compiled according to a centuries-old family tradition, survived the war. In 1970, she published this collection of recipes with the title Viennese Pastries Cookbook, which won her great recognition.
    Throughout her life in New York, Lilly Joss lived in an apartment at 875 West End Avenue, which also served as her studio. It was near Riverside Drive and the Hudson River. During the 1940s several of her photographs were represented by the Black Star agency and reproduced for Life with “Lilly Joss from b.s.” (Life, 23 October 1944, p. 60). Life reportages with printed photographs by Lilly Joss were for example for “St. Francis of Assisi reportage. The Story of Christ’s Great Imitator Is Brought to the US by Polish Refugees” (Anonymous 1944a), with four photographs to the “Spring 1944” reportage (Anonymous 1944b), along with other émigrés photographs including one of Walter Sanders, for “War Wife. She and her baby son are waiting” (Anonymous 1944c) and the advertisement shot of a woman driving a car for the brand Pennsylvania Tires (Life, 28 August 1944, p. 108).

    Her photograph for the “Salon Section” of Popular Photography magazine in March 1945 was described thus: “Lilly Joss of New York caught the tension of these two little boys in a Chinese kindergarten. Tension, being suspended motion, creates a mental picture of potential action which is emphasized by strong shadows and the tilted camera.” (Anonymous 1945, 46) In March 1948, an article on her and her images appeared in The Camera magazine (Green 1948). Examples of her images which were published alongside newspaper articles include: “Dolls get treatment for fashion show.” (The Star Weekly, 21 July 1945) and “The Kids spoke up.” (The Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1945, p. 79), which was an article on playgrounds in Brooklyn.

    Analysing Lilly Joss's photographs, we see children and women as recurring motifs in her work. In her photographs, Lilly Joss tried to make the scenes and protagonists appear natural and unposed and reveal the human quality and everyday life, using both the narrative and technical means of photography. It was particularly important to her as a photographer to put herself in the position and role of those depicted in certain topics for requested reports, and at the same time to question what the readership would expect as visual image material on this topic as she for example tried in her spring series for Life (Anonymous 1944b): “‘One was photographing the spring. What would you say the spring meant to you? To me, its windows open, curtains blowing and a pot of flowers on the window sill; houses being cleaned or painted; the planting of gardens, children rolling hoops–but all this I could not have. I had to photograph the spring in Central Park (on a none-too–spring-like day). Making people feel the spring in a different sort of pictures was quite hard. But I haunted for spring and found glimpses of it in a top-coated elderly man with a dog at his feet, soaking up the first weak sunshine–in a pattern shot of a row of the spring crop of babies–in grandpa sailing his grandson’s new boat–in the first game of checkers, with a foraging pigeon under-foot–in young love hand–in–hand and children pedaling and skating. The air was cold, but it was spring–and Life liked all my pictures'.” (Green 1948, 46) For avoiding to photograph the faces of children and respecting the image right of them she for example captured them during a play and worked with unusual camera perspectives. Especially in reportages during the 1940s the context of World War II in the everyday life of children and women were thematised by Lilly Joss – of course to take this political and social was often required by the press and magazines and directed the daily life. This is addressed directly in series like “War Wife. She and her baby son are waiting” (Anonymous 1944c). Despite or because of the war context, these photos highlight the rights and value of children and women as individuals, at a time when most of the male population was engaged in the war and many women and children remained behind in New York. Another photo series where the female role in the society was reflect was how women dress at work.

    Topics as expatriation and the lives of émigrés in New York also played a role in her photo series. One series was made on refugee and second-generation émigrés children in Chinese schools and kindergartens in Chinatown. Another series were French emigrant painter Férnand Leger in 1944/45, whom she portrayed in his studio on 77 Lexington Avenue. (2 images are also printed in the MoMa exhibition catalogue on Fernand Léger 1998). One image shows him together with his wife (?) Jaqueline Lignont-Roux. Fernand Léger, living as emigrant in New York in the 1940s, was also portrayed by other émigré photographers like Hermann Landshoff and Thomas Bouchard, who, in 1943, also made a film about the painter. This collaboration illustrates the networks that existed among émigré photographers, cinematographers, painters and architects, as well as dancers, in New York. Other examples of networks were those between Ellen Auerbach, Rudy Burckhardt and the émigré painter Willem de Kooning, and between Gerda Peterich, Lotte Jacobi and Thomas Bouchard and the modern and émigré dance scene in New York. Besides photographing portraits in her clients' apartments, Joss also produced portraits – mostly of children and women – in her studio. Today, several of Lilly Joss's photographs are stored at the Kunstmuseum Wien, as well as in the collection of the Ryerson Image Center.

    Word Count: 1268

  • Frühling im Central Park series. Junges Paar mit Kinderwagen by Lilly Joss, New York, 1944 (© Wien Museum /
    “The Kid’s spoke up” article with images by Lilly Joss, The Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1945, p. 79 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Four images by Lilly Joss for the “Spring 1944” reportage, Life 24 April 1944, pp. 96–97 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Two little boys in a Chinese kindergarten by Lilly Joss for the “Salon Section”, Popular Photography, March 1945, pp.46–47 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Joss Reich, Lilly. The Viennese Pastry Cookbook. From Vienna With Love over 200 authentic recipes for classic pastries and warm desserts. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970.
  • Anonymous. “St. Francis of Assisi reportage. The Story of Christ’s Great Imitator Is Brought to the US by Polish Refugees.” Life, 10 April 1944, p. 65

    Anonymous. “Spring 1944.” Life, 24 April 1944, pp. 96f.

    Anonymous. “War Wife. She and her baby son are waiting.” Life, 25 September 1944, pp. 75–76.

    Anonymous. "Salon Section." Popular Photography, March 1945, p. 45–47.

    Anonymous. “Dolls get treatment for fashion show.” The Star Weekly, 21 July 1945.

    Displaced Visions. Émigré Photographers of the 20th Century, edited by Nissan N. Perez, exh. cat. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2013.

    Fernand Léger, edited by Carolyn Lanchner, exh. cat. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998.

    Fischer-Westhauser, Ulla. “‘I have always been independent!’ Lilly Joss Reich – a Forgotten Jewish Woman Photographer.” Jubilee – 30 years of ESHPh. Congress of Photography in Vienna, edited by Anna Auer and Uwe Schlögl, Fotohof edition, 2008, pp. 262–271.

    Green, Barbara. “Magazine Photographer Lilly Joss.” The Camera, March 1948, pp. 42–47; 140f.

    Joss-Reich, Lilly. The Viennese Pastry Cookbook. From Vienna With Love. The Macmillan Company, 1970.

    Kreutler, Frauke. „Lilly Joss Reich. Blitzlichter einer Karriere.“ Wien Museum Magazin, 13.01.2022.

    Krohn, Claus-Dieter, editor. Exilforschung. Ein internationales Jahrbuch, vol. 21: Film und Fotografie. edition text + kritik, 2003.

    Moderne auf der Flucht. Österreichische KünstlerInnen in Frankreich 1938–1945, edited by Andrea Winklbauer, exh. cat. Jüdisches Museum Wien, Vienna 2008.

    Übersee. Flucht und Emigration österreichischer Fotografen 1920–1940, edited by Anna Auer, exh. cat. Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna 1997.

    Turner, Grace. “The Kids spoke up.” The Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1945, p. 79.

    Vienna’s shooting girls: Jüdische Fotografinnen aus Wien, edited by Iris Meder and Andrea Winklbauer, exh. cat. Jüdisches Museum Wien, Vienna, 2012.

    Word Count: 249

  • My deepest thanks go to the Museum Wien and Frauke Kreutler for providing me with information and giving me the permission to use images by Lilly Joss Reich.

    Word Count: 28

  • Helene Roth
  • Casablanca, Morocco (1939–1941); New York, US (1941–2006).

  • 875 West End Avenue, Bloomingdale, New York City (residence and studio, 1941–2006); 420 Lexington Avenue, Black Star Office, Midtown Manhattan, New York (workplace, 1941–?)

  • New York
  • Helene Roth. "Lilly Joss." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 11-05-2022.
  • Walter Sanders
    New York

    Walter Sanders was a German émigré photographer. In 1938 he arrived in New York, where he worked from 1939 until the end of his life for the Black Star agency and, from 1944, for Life magazine.

    Word Count: 33

    Kurt Safranski
    Picture AgentFounding MemberTeacherCartoonistPublisherIllustrator
    New York

    Kurt Safranski was one of the founding members of the Black Star photo agency, a teacher at the New School for Social Research and the author of photojournalistic articles and books.

    Word Count: 31

    Andreas Feininger
    New York

    Andreas Feininger, was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York with his wife Wysse Feininger in 1939. He started a lifelong career exploring the city's streets, working as a photojournalist and writing a large number of photography manuals.

    Word Count: 39

    Ruth Bernhard
    New York

    Ruth Bernhard was a German émigré photographer who lived in New York from the 1920s to the 1940s. Beside her series on female nudes, her place in the photography network, as well as in the New York queer scene, is unknown and understudied.

    Word Count: 43

    Erika Stone
    New York

    Erika Stone is a German émigré, who moved to New York with her parents and sister in December 1936, at the age of 12. She went on to carve out a career as photographer.

    Word Count: 32

    Lisette Model
    New York

    Lisette Model was an Austrian-born photographer who lived in New York with her husband Evsa Model after emigrating from France. Her street photographs capturing the curiosities of everyday life quickly caught the interest of museums and magazines.

    Word Count: 37

    Fred Stein
    New York

    Always accompanied by his camera, the German émigré photographer Fred Stein discovered New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. His pictures provide an human and multifaceted view of the metropolis.

    Word Count: 31

    Charles Leirens
    New York

    Charles Leirens was a Belgian-born musician and photographer who emigrated to New York in 1941. While publishing two books on Belgian music, he also gave courses in musicology and photography at the New School for Social Research.

    Word Count: 36

    Marion Palfi
    New York

    Marion Palfi was a German émigré photographer who lived in New York from the 1940s to the 1960s. Her photographic engagement in social and political topics made her name for her use of the camera to draw attention to social injustices.

    Word Count: 41

    Ruth Jacobi
    New York

    Ruth Jacobi was a German-speaking, Polish-born photographer who emigrated in 1935 to New York, where she opened a studio together with her sister Lotte Jacobi. She later had her own portrait studio.

    Word Count: 31

    Fritz Henle
    New York

    Fritz Henle was a German Jewish photographer who emigrated in 1936 to New York, where he worked as a photojournalist for various magazines. He also published several photobooks of his travels throughout North America and Asia.

    Word Count: 35

    Kurt Kornfeld
    PublisherPicture AgentFounding Member
    New York

    Kurt Kornfeld was a publisher and literary agent and a founding member of the Black Star photo agency in New York City after his emigration in 1936 to New York.

    Word Count: 29

    Ernest Mayer
    Picture AgentFounding MemberPublisher
    New York

    Ernest Mayer was co-founder of the Black Star Publishing Company photo agency, which built a network for émigré photographers and the American magazine scene from the mid-1930s until the end of the 1950s.

    Word Count: 34

    Ruth Staudinger
    PhotographerCinematographerArt dealer
    New York

    Very few and only fragmentary details can be found on the German émigré photographer Ruth Staudinger, who emigrated in the mid-1930s to New York City. Her nomadic life was also characterisedd by several changes of name along the way.

    Word Count: 40

    Carola Gregor
    New York

    The German émigré photographer Carola Gregor was an animal and child photographer and published some of her work in magazines and books. Today her work and life are almost forgotten.

    Word Count: 30

    Rudy Burckhardt
    New York

    Rudy Burckhardt was a Swiss-born photographer, filmmaker and painter who emigrated from Basle to New York City in 1935. He was well networked within the emerging Abstract Expressionist art scene of 1940s' and 50s'.

    Word Count: 33

    T. Lux Feininger
    New York

    Lux T. Feininger was a German-American émigré photographer and painter and the brother of the photographer Andreas Feininger, arriving in 1936 in New York. Although he started taking photographs during the 1920s in Germany, Feininger is better known for his career as a painter and his photographic work is largely unacknowledged.

    Word Count: 50

    Trude Fleischmann
    New York

    Trude Fleischmann was an Austrian-Jewish portrait and dance photographer who emigrated in 1939 to New York, where she opened a studio in Midtown Manhattan with the photographer Frank Elmer.

    Word Count: 28

    Chinatown U.S.A.
    New York

    Chinatown U.S.A. is a photobook published by the German émigré photographer Elizabeth Coleman in 1946 focusing on American-Chinese communities in New York and San Francisco.

    Word Count: 26

    Black Star Agency
    Photo Agency
    New York

    The German émigrés Kurt S(z)afranski, Ern(e)st Mayer and Kurt Kornfeld founded Black Star in 1936. The photo agency established was a well-run networking institution in New York.

    Word Count: 31

    Photo Supplier
    New York

    Spiratone was a photo company and photo supplier founded in 1941 by the Austrian émigré family Hans (1888–1944) and Paula Spira (?–?) and their son Fred Spira (1924–2007).

    Word Count: 24

    Hermann Landshoff
    New York

    Besides outdoor fashion shots, Hermann Landshoff was a portrait and street photographer. During his time in New York, he captured the cultural, artistic and intellectual émigré scene as well as his photographer colleagues.

    Word Count: 33

    Lotte Jacobi
    New York

    In October 1935 the German émigré photographer Lotte Jacobi, together with her sister Ruth Jacobi, opened a photo studio on 57th Street. The two sisters had to leave their parents' photo studio in Berlin in the 1930s and emigrated to New York.

    Word Count: 41

    Ellen Auerbach
    New York

    When she arrived in New York in 1937, the German-born photographer Ellen Auerbach (formerly Rosenberg) had already passed through exile stations in Palestine and Great Britain.

    Word Count: 25

    Gerda Peterich
    New York

    The German émigré Gerda Peterich had a photographic studio at 332 West 56th Street and in New York, where she specialised in dance and portraiture. In addition, she visited dance studios and photographed outside in the city.

    Word Count: 36