Archive

Start Over

Kurt Kornfeld

  • Given name:
    Kurt
  • Last name:
    Kornfeld
  • Date of Birth:
    13-02-1887
  • Place of Birth:
    Berlin (DE)
  • Date of Death:
    19-02-1967
  • Place of Death:
    New York City (US)
  • Profession:
    Founding MemberPicture AgentPublisher
  • Introduction:

    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

  • Signature Image:
    Portrait of Kurt Kornfeld, 2 May 1938, New York (© Heirs of Kurt Kornfeld).
  • Content:

    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

  • Media:
    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).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    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

  • Archives and Sources:

    Word Count: 24

  • Acknowledgements:

    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

  • Author:
    Helene Roth
  • Exile:

    New York, US (1936–1967).

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    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).

  • Metropolis:
    New York
  • Helene Roth. "Kurt Kornfeld." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2948/object/5138-11019615, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Walter Sanders
    Photographer

    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

    Portrait of Walter Sanders, Cuba, Havana, 1938 (Estate Walter Sanders).
    Walt Sanders and Alfred Kornfeld, son of Black Star cofounder Kurt Kornfeld. Sheldrake Lake, New Rochelle, NY, November 1939 (© Heirs of Kurt Kornfeld).First cover by Walter Sanders for Life, 26 June 1939 (Estate Walter Sanders).Letterhead with name Walter Suessmann, a reference to Echo and an address (Estate Walter Sanders).Photo of the Aquacade swim show by Walter Sanders for Black Star, reproduced in Life, 3 July 1939, p. 60 (Estate Walter Sanders, Photo: Helene Roth).“Life goes to The Futurama.” Image of the General Motors Show by Walter Sanders in Life, 5 June 1939, p. 79 (Estate Walter Sanders, Photo: Helene Roth).“Life visits Statue of Liberty.” Images by Walter Sanders published in Life, 2 June 1941, pp. 94–95 (Estate Walter Sanders, Photo: Helene Roth).“Por las entrañas de una estatua.”. Images by Walter Sanders, MUNDO Argentino, June 1941 (Estate Walter Sanders, Photo: Helene Roth).“The Road Back to Berlin.” Images and text by Walter Sanders in Life, 10 November 1946, p. 29 (Estate Walter Sanders, Photo: Helene Roth).Americans in Heidelberg, Life cover, Image by Walter Sanders, Life, 21 July 1947 (Estate Walter Sanders, Photo: Helene Roth).
    New York
    Kurt Safranski
    Picture AgentFounding MemberTeacherCartoonistPublisherIllustrator

    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

    Portrait of Kurt Safranski with his wife Maria and daughter Tina Safranski, photographer unknown, n.d. (© Heirs of Kurt Safranski).
    Cover of Selling Your Pictures by Kurt Safranski (Ziff Davis Publishing Company, 1940).Kurt Safranski “Backgrounds.” Minicam Photography, July 1945, pp. 52–53 (Photo: Helene Roth).Kurt Safranski. “Dr. Salomon.” Popular Photography, August 1948, pp. 56–57.Announcement of "Pictorial Journalism" course by Kurt Safranski in New School Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 9, 1944, p. 84 (© New School course catalog collection, NS-05-01-01. The New School Archives).Werner Wolff, K.S. Safranski’s Class in Pictorial Journalism, 1950 (New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection © Steven Wolff).Announcement of "Pictorial Journalism. Photographs as a Language and their special Problems" course by Kurt Safranski at the New School for Social Research, Spring 1949 (© The New School Archives and Special Collection, The New School, New York).
    New York
    Andreas Feininger
    PhotographerWriterEditor

    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

    Portrait of Andreas Feininger by Fritz Henle, 1940/41, cropped detail (© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Andreas Feininger Archive, Photo: Helene Roth).
    Portrait of Andreas Feininger by Fritz Henle, 1940/41 (© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Andreas Feininger Archive, Photo: Helene Roth).Andreas Feininger, 1, Stockholm, 1937 (© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Andreas Feininger Archive, Photo: Helene Roth).Andreas Feininger, Close Up Equipment, 365 West 20 St. New York, 1940 (© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Andreas Feininger Archive, Photo: Helene Roth).Andreas Feininger, “An Amateur’s Wartime Darkroom.” U.S. Camera, April 1942, pp. 28–29 (Photo: Helene Roth).Scrapbook of Andreas Feininger with photographic essay “New York. A big spectacle in big pictures.” Life, 14 April 1941, pp. 86–87 (© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Andreas Feininger Archive, Photo: Helene Roth).Scrapbook of Andreas Feininger with article and photographs by him. “Experimenting with Lights at Night.” Popular Photography, February 1947, pp. 44–45 (© Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Andreas Feininger Archive, Photo: Helene Roth).“Feininger’s Workshop - photo facts in pictures. Unsharpness and its cause.” Popular Photography, May 1949, pp.54–55 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    New York
    Ruth Bernhard
    Photographer

    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

    Lotte Jacobi, Ruth Bernhard, 1945, New York (© 2021. University of New Hampshire).
    Scrapbook and published work by Ruth Bernhard (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Lifesavers by Ruth Bernhard, published in Advertisment Arts, January 1931 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Still Life of dolls for Macy’s by Ruth Bernhard, published in Graphic Arts, 1931 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Ruth Bernhard, Eighth Street Movie Theater, Frederick Kiesler-Architect, New York, 1946 (Diversity Corner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0).Exhibition flyer for Ruth Bernhard Photographs, PM Gallery, 1938 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).Description of Ruth Bernhard Photographs exhibition, by Kurt Safranski, PM Gallery, 1938 (Ruth Bernhard Archive, Special Collection Princeton University © Trustees of Princeton University).
    New York
    Fred Stein
    PhotographerLawyer

    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

    Fred Stein, Self-portrait, 1941 (© Fred Stein Archive).
    Fred Stein, El at Water Street, 1946 (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait Alvin Saunders Johnson by Fred Stein, New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection (© Fred Stein Archive). Children Photographs exhibition by Fred Stein, April 1947 (© Fred Stein Archive).Affidavit in Lieu of Passport (© Fred Stein Archive).Fred Stein, Anette Kolb, New York, 1945 (© Fred Stein Archive).Fritz Neugass. “The saga of the S.S. Winnipeg.” Modern Photography, July 1951, pp. 72–73 (Photo: Helene Roth).Black Star contract by Fred Stein, April 1, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).New York 1949 calendar by Fred Stein, Lumen Publisher (© Fred Stein Archive).Mixed articles and reviews on 5th Avenue photobook form Fred Stein's scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Fritz H. Landshoff (of Querido Publishing House) by Fred Stein, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Kurt Wolff (of publishing house Pantheon Books) by Fred Stein, 1959 (© Fred Stein Archive).Announcement by Pantheon Books from Fred Stein’s scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Rapho Guillumette agency letter to Fred Stein, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Cover of 5th Avenue photobook (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Tim Gidal
    PhotographerPublisherArt Historian

    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

    Portrait of Tim Gidal, n.d. (© Tim Gidal Archiv. Steinheim Institut. Photo: Horst Hahn).
    Cover of My village in Austria by Sonia and Tim Gidal (Pantheon, 1956).Plan of the village printed in My village in Austria by Sonia and Tim Gidal (Pantheon, 1956).Title page of My Village in India by Sonia and Tim Gidal (Pantheon, 1956).Announcement for “The New Grand Tour” course by Tim Gidal. New School Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 18, Spring 1956, p. 30 (© New School course catalog collection, NS-05-01-01. The New School Archives).Announcement for “Picture Reporting Through The Ages” course by Tim Gidal. New School Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 18, Spring 1956, p. 49 (© New School course catalog collection, NS-05-01-01. The New School Archives).Letter from Tim Gidal to Clara W. Mayer, 1957/58 ( © Clara Mayer Papers. Gidal, Nahum T., 1957-1958, Box: 4, Folder: 27. The New School Archives, Photo: Helene Roth).
    New York
    Ernest Mayer
    Picture AgentFounding MemberPublisher

    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

    Portrait of Ernest Mayer at the Black Star Office, December 1936, New York (© Heirs of Kurt Kornfeld).
    Signature by Ernest Mayer in a letter to Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).Walt Sanders and Alfred Kornfeld, son of Black Star cofounder Kurt Kornfeld. Sheldrake Lake, New Rochelle, NY, November 1939 (© Heirs of Kurt Kornfeld).
    New York
    Carola Gregor
    PhotographerSculptor

    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

    Portrait of Carola Gregor (cutout of her papers of naturalisation).
    Petitions for naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York of Carola Gregor (Naturalizations, box 1018-1020, cert. no. 513486-513958, 9-12 Apr 1945, Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 - 2009, RG 21. National Archives at New York, familysearch.org).Homer- The Hydrophobic Duck by Carola Gregor published in U.S. Camera 1943, p. 63 (Photo: Helene Roth).Portrait of Fritz Goro by Carola Gregor, published in Life, 13 September 1937, p. 104 (Photo: Helene Roth).Photograph of Amazonian birds by Carola Gregor for the brochure Pavilhão do Brasil. Feira Mundial de Nova York de 1939, pp. 11–12 (Photo: Helene Roth).Mending Nets by Carola Gregor, published in Popular Photography, October 1942, p. 40 (Photo: Helene Roth).A gleaming spider by Carola Gregor, published in Popular Photography, August 1948, pp. 81–82 (Photo: Helene Roth).Reportage “Liger. A lion and a tigress produce a new kind of zoo baby” with images by Carola Gregor, published in Life, 20 September 1948, p. 109 (Photo: Helene Roth).Reportage “Liger. A lion and a tigress produce a new kind of zoo baby” with images by Carola Gregor, published in Life, 20 September 1948, pp. 111–112 (Photo: Helene Roth).War Manpower Commission. Farm labor poster distributed to Department of Agriculture. Photograph by Carola Gregor (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives).
    New York
    Black Star Agency
    Photo Agency

    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

    Letterhead of Black Star (Black Star Archive. Ryerson Image Center, Photo: Helene Roth).
    Logo and Stamp of Black Star Photo Agency (Photo: Helene Roth, 2019).Description of Black Star in a photographic guide (Ahlers, Arvel W.. Where & how to sell your pictures. Photography Publishing Corp., 1953, p. 45).Werner Wolff, K.S. Safranski’s Class in Pictorial Journalism, 1950 (New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection © Steven Wolff).Facade and entrance of the Graybar Building on Lexington Avenue (Photo: Helene Roth, 2018).Cover of Selling Your Pictures by Kurt Safranski (Ziff Davis Publishing Company, 1940).Black Star contract by Fred Stein, April 1, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Announcement of "Pictorial Journalism. Photographs as a Language and their special Problems" course by Kurt Safranski at the New School for Social Research, Spring 1949 (© The New School Archives and Special Collection, The New School, New York).Letterhead with the logo and address of Black Star (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Werner Wolff
    Photographer

    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

    Lotte Jacobi, Werner Wolff, 1943, New York (© 2021. University of New Hampshire).
    “Speaking of Pictures. Mrs. Roosevelt Takes Voice Lessons.” Life, 13 March 1939, pp. 6–9 (Photo: Helene Roth).Agreement between Black Star and Werner Wolff, 1947 (The Family of Werner Wolff © Ryerson Image Center).Camera Features stamp (The Family of Werner Wolff © Ryerson Image Center).Contact sheets for reportage on Empire State Building by Werner Wolff, 1946 (The Family of Werner Wolff © Ryerson Image Center).Rear side of contact sheets for reportage on Empire State Building by Werner Wolff, 1946 (The Family of Werner Wolff © Ryerson Image Center).Text for reportage on Empire State Building, written by Werner Wolff, 1946 (The Family of Werner Wolff © Ryerson Image Center).List of images and description for reportage on Empire State Building, written by Werner Wolff, 1946 (The Family of Werner Wolff © Ryerson Image Center).“Daredevil at Work” reportage by Werner Wolff in Popular Photography, September 1946, p. 39 (Photo: Helene Roth).Werner Wolff, K.S. Safranski’s Class in Pictorial Journalism, 1950 (New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection © Steven Wolff).
    New York
    Lilly Joss
    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).
    Frühling im Central Park series. Junges Paar mit Kinderwagen by Lilly Joss, New York, 1944 (© Wien Museum / kunstdokumentation.com).“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.
    New York
    Fritz Henle
    Photographer

    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

    Portrait of Fritz Henle by Herbert Matter, New York, 1937 (© Estate Fritz Henle).
    Fritz Henle, New York at Night, New York, 1936–1950s' (© 2021. Fritz Henle Estate).Fritz Henle, New York Reflections, New York, 1936–1950s' (© 2021. Fritz Henle Estate).Fritz Henle, The L Train on Wall Street, New York, 1936–1950s' (© 2021. Fritz Henle Estate).Fritz Henle, Brooklyn Bridge and Baby Carriage, New York, 1936's-1950 (© 2021.Fritz Henle Estate)Fritz Henle, New York Skaters from the RCA Building, New York, 1936–1950s' (© 2021. Fritz Henle Estate).Fritz Henle, New York Art Critic at Washington Square, New York, 1936–1950s' (© 2021. Fritz Henle Estate).“The American Legion takes New York City.” Life, 4 October 1937, pp. 24f.Photographs by Fritz Henle for the reportage “Memo to: Walter Wander, Subject: 52nd Street.” Life, 29 November 1937, pp. 64–67 (Photo: Helene Roth).Cover of Paris photobook by Fritz Henle (Ziff Davis, 1947).“Men who love Paris. Fritz Henle and Elliot Paul combine pictures and text in a handsome book about their favorite city.” Popular Photography, January 1947, pp. 60–61.Norris Harkness. "Simplicity. Fritz Henle’s fashion shots prove that the easy way is often the most effective." Popular Photography, August 1944, pp. 36–37.Victor Kepler. “There’s adventure in night photography.” Popular Photography, August 1942, pp. 28–29.Cover of Fritz Henle’s rollei (Hastings House, 1950).Cover photo by Fritz Henle, Life, 30 July 1939.
    New York