Start Over

Kurt Kornfeld

  • 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.
  • Kurt
  • Kornfeld
  • 13-02-1887
  • Berlin (DE)
  • 19-02-1967
  • New York City (US)
  • PublisherPicture AgentFounding Member
  • 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

  • Portrait of Kurt Kornfeld, 2 May 1938, New York (© Heirs of Kurt Kornfeld).
  • Born in Berlin, Kurt Kornfeld worked there as a publisher and literary agent. He was the owner of Fischer’s Medizinische Buchhandlung H. Kornfeld, a medical publishing company, and of Carl Duncker Verlag. With the rise of National Socialism the freedom of the press, and of the publishing industry in general, was restricted in Germany. We know through Mathilde Mayer (1869–1969), Ernest Mayer’s mother, that Kurt Kornfeld was a friend of the Mayer family and that Ernest Mayer was also in contact with Kurt Safranski (Mayer 1991, 97). Therefore, Mayer, Kornfeld and Safranski already knew each other and had all worked in publishing in Berlin before founding the Black Star photo agency in New York in 1936.

    Kurt Kornfeld arrived in New York in 1936 and initially lived in the Park Crescent Hotel at 150 Riverside Drive, where Kurt Safranski and Ernest Mayer already resided. The same year, Kornfeld moved with Ernest Mayer into a house at 30 Parcot Avenue in New Rochelle, where he stayed until 1946. The Safranski family already lived in New Rochelle. During the 1930s the rest of the Mayer and Kornfeld families also emigrated to New York. The commute from New Rochelle to the Black Star office could be done by train, arriving at Grand Central Station, from where there was direct access to 420 Lexington Avenue, where the photo agency was located. In 1937 Kurt Kornfeld and Kurt Safranski met Ernest Mayer’s mother Mathilde Mayer in London, where Black Star had his European branch, and she travelled with Kurt Kornfeld to New York before going to stay with Ernest Mayer in New Rochelle from March till May 1937. She finally emigrated to New York on 2 October, 1937, to begin a new life with a new language, at the age of 68.

    Co-founder and partner of Black Star, Kurt Kornfeld was responsible as their photo agent for émigrés from Europe such as Ruth Bernhard, Ralph Crane (Rudolf Crohn), Andreas Feininger, Fritz Goro (Gorodiski), Carola Gregor (Gorodiski, née Margarete Meyer), Philippe Halsman, Fritz Henle, Lilly Joseph (née Joss), Lisa Larsen (née Rothschild), Walter Sanders (née Süssmann), Fred Stein, Roman Vishniac and Werner Wolff.

    Word Count: 352

  • Visitenkarte von Kurt A. Kornfeld, Black Star, Strand Palace Hotel, London an Erich Salomon, n.d (Erich Salomon Archiv, © Sammlung Berlinische Galerie, Erworben durch das Land Berlin aus Mitteln des Bundesministeriums des Innern, Bonn, 1980, Repro: Anja Elisabeth Witte).
  • Chapnick, Howard. Truth Needs No Ally. Inside Photojournalism. University Missouri Press, 1994.

    Fischer, Ernst. Verleger, Buchhändler & Antiquare aus Deutschland und Österreich in der Emigration nach 1933. Ein biographisches Handbuch. Verband Deutscher Antiquare e.V., 2011.

    Gervais, Thierry. The Making of Visual News. A History of Photography in the Press. Translated by John Tittenson, Bloomsbury, 2017.

    Kornfeld, Phoebe. Passionate Publishers. The Founders of the Black Star Photo Agency. University of Missouri Press, 2021.

    Mayer, Mathilde. Die Alte und die Neue Welt (1951). Arbeitskreis Jüdisches Bingen, 2003, [original text was completed in 1951 by Ernest Mayer’s mother while in exile in New Rochelle, New York].

    Morris, John Godfrey. Get the Picture. A Personal History of Photojournalism. University of Chicago Press, 2002.

    Neubauer, Hendrik. Black Star. 60 Years of Photojournalism. Könemann, 1997.

    New York Photography 1890–1950. Von Stieglitz bis Man Ray, edited by Ortrud Westheider and Michael Philipp, exh. cat Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 2012.

    Oels, David, and Ute Schneider, editors. “Der ganze Verlag ist einfach eine Bonbonniere”: Ullstein in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts. De Gruyter, 2014.

    Schaber, Irme. “Fotografie.” Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933–1945, edited by Claus-Dieter Krohn and Patrick von zur Mühlen, WBG, 1998, pp. 970–983.

    Smith, C. Zoe. “Émigré photography in America: contributions of German photojournalism from Black Star Picture Agency to Life magazine, 1933–1938.” (unpublished dissertation, School of Journalism in the Graduate College of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, December 1983).

    Smith, C. Zoe. “Black Star Picture Agency: Life’s European Connection.” Journalism History, vol. 13, no. 1, 1986, pp. 19–25.

    Smith, C. Zoe. “Die Bildagentur ‘Black Star’. Inspiration für eine neue Magazinfotografie in den USA.” Kommunikation visuell. Das Bild als Forschungsgegenstand – Grundlagen und Perspektiven, edited by Thomas Knieper and Marion G. Müller, Herbert von Halem, 2001, pp. 240–249.

    Torosian, Michael. Black Star. The Ryerson University Historical Print Collection of the Black Star Publishing Company. Portfolio Selection and Chronicle of a New York Photo Agency. Lumiere Press, 2013.

    Vowinckel, Annette. “German (Jewish) Photojournalists in Exile. A Story of Networks and Success.” German History, vol. 31, no. 4, December 2013, pp. 473–496.

    Word Count: 323

  • My deepest thanks go to Phoebe Kornfeld, the granddaughter of Kurt Kornfeld, and Peter Stein, the son of Fred Stein, for providing me with information and archival material.

    Word Count: 28

  • Helene Roth
  • New York, US (1936–1967).

  • Park Crescent Hotel, 150 Riverside Drive, Upper West Side, New York City (residence, 1935–1936); 30 Parcot Avenue, New Rochelle, New York (residence, 1936–1946); 52 Dewey Avenue, New Rochelle, New York (residence, 1946–1949); 406 and 402 5th Avenue, New Rochelle, New York (residence, 1949–1956/57); 2 Tudor City Place, Tudor City, New York City (residence, 1957–1967); Graybar Building, 420 Lexington Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York City (workplace, 1936–1957); Black Star Agency, 305 East 47th Street, Tudor City, New York City (workplace, 1957–1963) (all dates approximate).

  • New York
  • Helene Roth. "Kurt Kornfeld." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Werner Wolff
    New York

    Werner Wolff was forced to leave Germany in 1936 due to his Jewish background and emigrated via Hamburg to New York, where he could follow his career as photographer and photojournalist.

    Word Count: 30

    Lilly Joss
    New York

    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

    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