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Ruth Staudinger

  • 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.
  • Ruth
  • Staudinger
  • Ruth (Staudinger-)Rozaffy, Ruth (Staudinger-)Davis, Ruth (Staudinger-)Schaffner

  • 27-10-1914
  • Karlsruhe (DE)
  • 15-03-1996
  • Nairobi (KE)
  • PhotographerCinematographerArt dealer
  • 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

  • Hassoldt Davis (?), Ruth Staudinger Davis holds the mummified head of an executed Indochines (Davis, 1952, 22).
  • Before emigrating to New York, Ruth Staudinger lived in Berlin, moving in the 1930s to Paris, where she studied art and photography. No more details are known of her first exilic life in Paris. But a hint of what she might have been up to comes via the German émigré photographer Josef Breitenbach, who also left Germany because of the political and racial problems there. During the 1930s Paris was an artistic, intellectual and cultural hub, where many German and European refugees went in search of a new home and the freedom to pursue a life as a photographer and artist. It is likely that Josef Breitenbach planned to open a photo school in Paris with Ruth Staudinger, but the plan was never realised (Breitenbach, 1996).

    Unlike her own, the lives of Ruth Staudinger's parents, Hans and Else Staudinger, are well documented. Hans Staudinger (1899–1980), was an economist and secretary of state at the Prussian trade ministry from 1929 to 1932, in Berlin. As a member of the Social Democrats, he was arrested in 1933 but, with the help of his wife Else Staudinger (1891–1966), was released. Else Staudinger managed the family's emigration, first to Paris and then, in 1934, to New York. From this, it can be deduced that Ruth Staudinger was probably also in Paris between 1933 and 1934 and emigrated with her family to New York. Hans Staudinger was able to continue his career as a professor of economics at the New School for Social Research, where in 1939 he became dean. Under the supervision of the German émigré Emil Lederer, former dean of the Institute of Economics, Else Staudinger eventually finished the PhD she had been working on at the University of Heidelberg. From her arrival in New York she was very engaged in helping other émigrés and founded a little group called “Selfhelp for German Emigres” at her home on West 11th Street. She had already been involved in efforts to alleviate human suffering through self help back in Berlin. Over the following years in New York, these activities expanded to become a proper organisation, partly staffed by volunteers and offering new émigrés assistance in starting a new life in New York. From 1936 the company's head office was at 44 East 23rd Street, but selfhelp centres were created in a number of other boroughs and cooperated with existing help organisations. In 1945 the Staudinger’s additionally founded "The American Council for Émigrés in the Professions"(ACEP), supporting refugee and persecuted intellectuals. It was located at 345 East 46th Street. During the 1950s, Josef Breitenbach, who emigrated to New York in 1941 and later was also at the New School for Social Research, noted in his address book, under "persons of the New School for Social Research" a “Mrs. and Dr. Staudinger 11 Washington Square”.

    How long Ruth Staudinger stayed in Paris and when she emigrated to New York it is not clear. But her name can be found in the book Women at Work. A Tour Among Careers. Published in 1939 by New York Career Tours in cooperation with the New York World’s Fair committee representing more than 30 nationalities, and state as well as regional professional women’s organisations, the book recounted in text and images the stories of 75 professional women from various fields who had gained entry into the business world. The five authors were all women and a number of women, including Ruth Staudinger-Rozaffy, were among the photographers who contributed. Some well-known names included the photographers Margarete Bourke-White, Berenice Abbot, Therese Bonney, Jackie Martin, Marvin Breckinrige and Elizabeth Hibs (Corley 1939, 62). Today the book fetches high prices at auctions and in antiquarian bookstores. As the World's Fair was an important cultural as well as political and economic event, other émigré photographers got commissions for the World's Fair or photographed the area on today's Flushing Meadows Park. Among them who were involved in commissions or made images of this event were Lilo Hess, Ruth Bernhard and Walter Sanders for Black Star photo agency, Carola Gregor, Andreas Feininger, Rolf Tietgens, Ernest Nash with for example a postcard series as well as many other émigré artists and intellectuals.

    The name Ruth Rozaffy appears without "Staudinger" in one of the book reviews for Women at Work, so it can be assumed that it is one and the same person. Ruth Staudinger likely got married either in Paris or New York. As the name Rozaffy is very rare, the connection might be the Hungarian artist and painter Didier (Didi) Roz(s)affy, who lived in Paris during the 1930s. Research reveals that a Ruth Rozaffy, together with the photographer Margarete Bourke White, held an exhibition at the American Artists School in November 1936 (Prints, vol.7/8, p. 110). A further mention of Ruth Rozaffy can be found in connection with an apartment rental published in The New York Times (16 November 1938, p. 42); the address listed was 24 West 59th Street.

    In 1939 a portrait made by Ruth Staudinger-Rozaffy appeared in the The New York Times, the subject being an Ecuadorian art student who had gained a fellowship at the New School for Social Research (Anonymous 1939a). A further connection with the New School, where Ruth's father and mother were very involved, was an exhibition there from 10 - 22 April the same year featuring photographs by Ruth Staudinger-Rozaffy (Anonymous 1939b, Anonymous 1939c). Yet another image dated 1939 can be found in the digital collection of the Lincoln School for Nurses photograph collection at the New York Public Library. The 1898-founded Lincoln School for Nurses offered training to black women at a time when such education was not commonly offered. Originally affiliated with the Lincoln Hospital and Home, in June 1925 the school was sold to the city of New York and a municipal hospital. From the proceeds of the sale, the Lincoln School for Nurses was rebuilt at a new location in 1929. The image Going on Duty by Staudinger-Rozaffy shows three Black nurses in front of the school building and can be seen today as a very important document on the equal rights of women in the profession. Other female photographers as Ellen Auerbach, Erika Stone or Lilly Joss Reich and Marion Palfi also made series about the urban life of the gender, social and ethnic diversity on the streets and institutions of New York City.

    Further photographic contributions to magazines by Staudinger Rozaffy can be found in 1940 and 1941. In 1940 one of her images appeared in Life magazine (24 June 1940, p. 32) and three were published in the U.S. Camera Annual of 1940. All images were photographed with a Rolleiflex. While Bedtime (Maloney 1940, 129) is a black and white image of a little girl holding a doll and a cuddly toy in her hands,
    More Fun Than the Circus (Maloney 1940, 130) focuses on a group of black girls and boys drinking together through straws from a bottle. Girls from telephone company taking exercise in American Women’s Association Gym (Maloney 1940, 178) is a view from above of a group of young women (mostly white) during a workout in a sports field, all stretching their arms in unison to the side. While the graphic design of this shot is reminiscent of images by the emigrant photographer Walter Sanders, all the photographs thematically represent children and young women and address the everyday life of different ethnic groups as well as the professional profiles of women. Women and children and the black community could be counted as social fringe groups, to which Rozaffy paid special attention and captured with her camera as equals. Other mainly female emigrant photographers such as Marion Palfi and Lilly Joss Reich pursued a similar thematic orientation in their photographs. The images published in U.S. Camera appeared alongside those of other German émigré photographers like Ruth Bernhard and Trude Fleischmann and established Ruth Staudinger-Rozaffy as a photographer of some renown during the 1940s. In 1941 a further image of hers was reproduced in the U.S. Camera Annual (Maloney 1941,56) and the same year she also provided the images for the reportage “Wiltwyck – Why Harlem Boys Learn Manhood” for The Layman’s Magazine of the Living Church (Anonymous 1941).

    The publication of her photographs in these magazines shows that during the 1930s and 1940s Ruth Staudinger-Rozaffy was able to restart her photographic career in New York and gained professional recognition. During World War II she worked as a photographer for the Free French Press and Information Center, which was located at 501 Madison Avenue. Unfortunately, no information on the work she did there is available.

    The next information available on Ruth Staudinger relates to the late 1940s and early 1950s. Probably towards the end of the 1940s she married the explorer, writer and traveller Hassoldt Davis, with whom she produced two documentary films and books about their travels during the 1950s. The first trip, documented in The Jungle and the Damned (1952), took place at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s and involved an expedition to French Guyana in South America. The couple were commissioned by the French government and UNESCO to make a film and a detailed report. Ruth Staudinger(-Davis) was the expedition’s photographer. The second tour, in the mid-1950s, was to the Ivory Coast in West Africa and was recorded in a book (1955) and film (1956), both titled Sorcerers’ Village (1955). Focusing on tribal customs and ceremonies in Africa, the ethnological expedition was directed by Davis Hassoldt and photographed by Ruth Staudinger. Perhaps the couple met in 1946 while she was working for the Free French Press and Information Center. She photographed Hassoldt Davis when he returned to New York from a stint with the Free French Forces in Libya, Tunisia and Indochina (Desfor 1951, 33).

    After Hassoldt Davis's death in 1959, Ruth Staudinger may have married the French painter Michael Cadoret de L’Epinneguin, through whom she became part of the European art community. Then in 1963 she married Joseph Halle Schaffner (?–1972) a banker who was also a member of the graduate faculty of the New School for Social Research and an executive director of the Emergency Committee for Émigré Scientists in 1945. A newspaper article of The New York Times reveals that Joseph Halle Schaffner donated a $1 million fund to help refugee scholars, with two further gifts of $10, 000 (Anonymous 1959).

    During the 1970s Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy became an art dealer. Her first gallery was on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles but, in the 1980s, the Ruth Schaffner Gallery moved to State Street in Santa Barbara. In 1984 she also moved to Nairobi with possibly her fifth husband Adama Diawara and in 1985 acquired Nairobi's only gallery at the time from its founders Jony Waite, Robin Anderson and David Hart. This became the legendary Gallery Watatu, which supported young African artists (Günther 2014).

    Word Count: 1764

  • Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy, Going on duty, 1939 (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library Digital Collections).
    Page with collected addresses of colleagues at the New School for Social Research in New York by Josef Breitenbach (© The Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, courtesy of The Center for Creative Photography, Josef Breitenbach Archive, AG90:6).
    Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy, New York Bedtime, published in U.S. Camera 1940, p. 129 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy, More Fun Than Circus, published in U.S. Camera 1940, p. 130 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy, Girls from telephone company taking exercises in American Woman’s Association Gym, published in U.S. Camera 1940, p. 178 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    “Wiltwyck – Why Harlme Boys Learn Manhood” article with images by Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy (Anonymous 1941, 18–19).
    Article on Ruth Staudinger and Hassoldt Davis (Desfor 1951, 33).
    Cover of The Jungle and the Damned (Davis, 1952) (Photo: Helene Roth).
    First page of The Jungle and the Damned (Davis 1952) (Photo: Helene Roth).
    First page of Scorcerer’s Village, published by Hassoldt Davis and Ruth Staudinger-Davis, Duell Sloan and Pearce, 1956 (Photo: Helene Roth).
  • Anonymous. "Ecuador Art Scholar In Surprise Arrival." The New York Times, 9 March 1939.

    Anonymous. “Openings Of The Week.” The New York Times, 9 April 1939, p. 147.

    Anonymous. “Openings Of The Week.” The New York Times, 16 April 1939, p. 10.

    Anonymous. “Wiltwyck – Why Harlem Boys Learn Manhood.” The Layman’s Magazine of the Living Church, no. 14, March 1941, pp. 18–19.

    Anonymous. “Fund Begun to Help Refugee Scholars.” The New York Times, 21 November 1969, p. 55.

    Anonymous. “Dr. Else Staudinger Dies at 76; Helped Thousands of Refugees.” The New York Times, 13 March 1966, p. 86.

    Anonymous. “Joseph Halle Schaffner Is Dead; Hart, Schaffner, Marx Director.” The New York Times, 11 August 1972, p. 32.

    Corley, Pauline. “Heralding New Books.” The Miami Herald, 12 March 1939, p. 62.

    Davis, Hassoldt. The Jungle and the Damned. Duell, Sloan and Pearce 1952.

    Davis, Hassoldt. Scorcerers' Village. Duell, Sloan and Pearce 1956.

    Desfor, Irving. “Camera News.” Journal and Courier, 20 January 1951, p. 33.

    Friedman, Lawrence J. The Lives of Erich Fromm. Love’s Prophet. Columbia University Press, 2014.

    Günther, Philipp, et al., editors. Sanaa Mtaani. Art in the City. Einblicke in die gegenwärtige Kunst Nairobis. Kastner & Callwey, 2014.

    Josef Breitenbach. Photographien. Zum 100. Geburtstag, edited by T.O. Immisch et al., exh. cat. Staatliche Galerie Mortizburg Halle (Saale) / Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich, 1996.

    Maloney, Tom. U.S. Camera. Annual 1940. Random House, 1940.

    Maloney, Tom. U.S. Camera. Annual 1941. Random House, 1941.

    Staudinger, Else. A tribute to Else Staudinger. American Council for Emigrés in the Professions, Inc., 1966.

    Thompson, Howard. “Screen: A Documentary; ‘Sorcerers’ Villageʼ Is Set in Africa.” The New York Times, 3 July 1958. Accessed 6 April 2021.

    Word Count: 246

  • Helene Roth
  • New York, US (1935–1970s).

  • 24 West 59th Street, Central Park South, New York (residence?, 1938); 33 Inwood Road, Inwood, New York City (residence, 1940–?); 501 Madison Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York (workplace, Free French Press and Information Center, 1941–1945?); 71 Washington Square, Greenwich Village, New York (residence of her parents, Hans and Else Staudinger, 1950s).

  • New York
  • Helene Roth. "Ruth Staudinger." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 05-11-2021.
  • 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

    Josef Breitenbach
    New York

    On arriving in New York in 1941, the German photographer Josef Breitenbach tried to restart as a portrait, street and experimental photographer, as well as a teacher of photo-history and techniques.

    Word Count: 30

    Rolf Tietgens
    New York

    Rolf Tietgens was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York in 1938. Although, in the course of his photographic career, his artistic and surrealist images were published and shown at exhibitions, his work, today, is very little known.

    Word Count: 39

    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

    Ernest Nash
    New York

    Ernest Nash was a German born photographer, who pursued his photographic as well as an archeologic interest in Roman architecture after his emigration to New York in 1939. Besides this research interest, he also worked as a portrait photographer and publisher.

    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

    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

    5th Avenue
    New York

    5th Avenue was the first photobook by Fred Stein and was created in 1947 with the publishing house Pantheon Books.

    Word Count: 19

    New York World's Fair postcard View of the Constitution Mall looking toward statue of George Washington and Trylon and Perisphere
    New York

    Shortly after the arrival in New York in 1939, photographs by the German émigré Ernest Nash were used and reproduced for postcards of the New York’s World’s Fair.

    Word Count: 29

    Christmas Exhibition of The Center for European Immigrant's Art and Handicraft
    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

    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

    Lilo Hess
    New York

    The German émigré Lilo Hess was an animal photographer working for the Museum for Natural History and the Bronx Zoo, as well being a freelance photographer and publisher of children's books.

    Word Count: 31

    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

    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

    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