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Modernage Photographic Services Inc

  • Name:
    Modernage Photographic Services Inc
  • Kind of Organisation:
    Photo Lab
  • Introduction:

    Modernage Photographic Services was founded in 1944 by the German émigrés Ralph and Leuba Baum and specialised in photofinishing services. In 1954 a second branch, Modernage Custom Darkrooms, was opened.

    Word Count: 29

  • Content:

    In 1944, Ralph and Leuba Baum transformed his wedding photography studio, Modernage (West 55th Street), into a photofinishing service laboratory. Leuba Baum (formerly Pavelle, ?–1997) was born into a family of photofinishing suppliers, who provided the couple with contacts and helped them start up Modernage Photographic Services. Unfortunately, no information on the Modernage wedding photography studio or the early life and career of Leuba Baum is available.

    Ralph Rudolf Baum was born on 27 July 1907 in Elmshorn, Hamburg, and emigrated in 1936 to New York, where he first worked in a hospital and later in a photo laboratory, where he developed his interest and passion for photography. In 1944 he and his wife Leuba opened the newly-transformed Modernage Photographic Services photo laboratory at 319 East 44th West Street, between the East River and Grand Central Station, an area where other émigré-founded photo agencies (Black Star, PIX, Rapho Guillemette) and photofinishing services (Leco and Pavelle) were also located.

    “The laboratory made prints, delivered packages to clients, filed negatives, and even received mail to serve professional photographers form the United Nations, the major news organizations and overseas publications. It was a new backup performance for photographers on the go; most Modernage department heads in the beginning were Jews, often themselves trained photographers.” (Gilbert 1996, 79) One of the first customers was the Black Star photo agency and later the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum New York, and the Metropolitan Museum would all become clients. (Gilbert 1996, 302)

    During the 1950s (probably in 1954) Modernage opened a second division with Modernage Custom Darkrooms specialising in the darkroom requirements of photojournalists. It was first located at 480 Lexington Avenue and around 1955 moved to 6 West 48th Street – both top locations in Midtown Manhattan.

    On a visit in 1953 to his hometown Elmshorn, Baum came upon some saved objects from the 1930s that had belonged to refugee Jewish families and began collecting Jewish ceremonial objects and artefacts. (Anonymous 1982) More than 800 pieces are today saved at the The Judaica Museum, which the Baums founded in 1982 at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale (5901 Palisade Avenue, Riverdale).

    Word Count: 343

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    319 East 44th Street, Turtle Bay, Manhattan, New York City (1944–?); 480 Lexington Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York City (1954); 6 West 48th Street, Midtown Manhattan, New York City (1955–?).

  • Signature Image:
    Advertisement Modernage Photographic Services in The Norwalk Hour, 3 June 1969, p. 25.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. “Dedication Ceremonies today for Judaica Museum in Bronx.” The New York Times, 16 May 1982, p. 50. Accessed 24 February 2021.

    Anonymous. “Obituary Ralph Baum.” The New York Times, 20 April 1984, p. 6. Accessed 24 February 2021.

    Anonymous. “Obituary Leuba Baum."The New York Times, 20 August 1997, p. 20. Accessed 24 February 2021.

    Exhibition at the EZTV Online Museum. Accessed 9 April 2021.

    Gilbert, George.The Illustrated Worldwide Who’s Who of Jews in Photography. G. Gilbert, 1996.

    Goldsmith, Arthur.The photography game; what is and how to play it. Viking Press, 1971.

    Word Count: 77

  • Archives and Sources:

    Word Count: 10

  • Author:
    Helene Roth
  • Date of Founding:
  • Metropolis:
    New York
  • Entry in process:
  • Helene Roth. "Modernage Photographic Services Inc." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 03-03-2022.
  • 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
    PIX Publishing Inc.
    Photo Agency

    PIX Publishing Inc. was a photo agency founded in New York in 1935 by photo agent Leon Daniel and Celia Kutschuk, together with German émigré photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt and George Karger.

    Word Count: 30

    Letterhead of PIX Inc. – Correspondence Daniel Leon with Fred Stein, 1943, cropped detail (© Fred Stein Archive).
    Letterhead of PIX Inc. – Correspondence Daniel Leon with Fred Stein, 1943 (© Fred Stein Archive).Mention of PIX Publishing in a photographic guide (Ahlers 1953, p. 46).
    New York
    Rapho Guillumette
    Photo Agency

    Founded in 1940 by the emigrant Charles Rado (1899–1970), Rapho Guillumette was a picture agency.

    Word Count: 13

    Rapho Guillumette agency letter to Fred Stein, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Three Lions Inc.
    Photo Agency

    Little is known about this photo agency, which was founded by two German émigré brothers, Max Georg and Walter Löwenherz in 1937 in New York

    Word Count: 25

    Logo of Three Lions Inc. (© Center for Creative Photography, Marion Palfi Archive, AG 46:1A).
    Mention of Three Lions in a photographic guide (Ahlers, Arvel W.. Where & how to sell your pictures. Photography Publishing Corp., 1953, p. 46).Job advertisement of Three Lions published in Aufbau magazine, 1. September 1939, no. 16, p. 26 (Photo: Helene Roth).Advertisement of Three Lions (Billboard, 11 February 1967, p. 37).
    New York
    Pavelle Laboratories Inc.
    Photo LabPhoto Supplier

    Pavelle Laboratories was found in 1936 by Leo and Carmen Pavelle and operated on East 42nd Street. It was specialised in the development of miniature camera film and one of the first labs working with colour film.

    Word Count: 36

    Logo of Pavelle Laboratories in Popular Photography, December 1943, p. 88.
    Article on Pavelle Laboratories (White 1951, 131).Article on Pavelle Laboratories in White 1951, 132–133).Advertisement for Pavelle Laboratories in Popular Photography, December 1943, p. 88.
    New York
    JJK Copy-Art
    Photo LabPhoto StudioPhoto Supplier

    JJK Copy-Art was a photo studio and photofinishing service founded in 1929 by the Jewish Austrian émigré James J. Kriegsmann (1909–1994) and was located at 165 West 46th Street.

    Word Count: 26

    Logo of JJK Copy-Art (Billboard, 26 January 1963, p. 50).
    Advertisement for JJK Copy-Art in Billboard, 26 January 1963, p. 50.Advertisement for JJK Copy-Art with slogan “We Deliver What We Advertise” (Billboard, 3 June 1950, p. 27).Advertisement for JJK Copy-Art with slogan “There Is No Business Than Show Business” (Billboard, 11 April 1953, p. 5)Apology announcement by James J. Kriegsmann in Billboard, 17 April 1943, p. 5Page from a magazine about the Cotton Club with a portrait of Bill Robertson by James J. Kriegsmann (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 1936) 2013.46.25.270a-e.
    New York
    Service Photo Suppliers Inc.
    Photo Supplier

    Service Photo Suppliers was a photo supplier distributing a wide variety of photo equipment and opened by the German émigré Hans Salomon (1909–?) in 1945.

    Word Count: 23

    Logo of Service Photo Suppliers, Inc. (Popular Photography, December 1948, p. 231).
    Advertisement of Service Photo Suppliers, Inc. in Popular Photography, December 1948, p. 231.
    New York
    Photo Supplier

    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

    Logo and address of Spiratone in Popular Photography, June 1947, p. 104.
    Advertisement in Minicam, vol. 5, no. 1, September 1941 p. 73; 84; 100Advertisement for Spiratone in Popular Photography, October 1949, p. 5.
    New York
    Leco Photo Service
    Photo Lab

    Leco Photo Service was a photofinishing lab, highly-frequented and a contact hub for émigré photographers and photo agencies during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as a provider of employment for women in the photo industry.

    Word Count: 36

    Advertisment Leco Photo Service (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Leco Photo Service mentioned in Etna Kelley. “Woman in Photography.”, Popular Photography, June 1945, pp. 23 (Photo: Helene Roth).Article on Leco Photo Service by Etna Kelley. “Photofinishing Plus.” Popular Photography, February 1947, pp. 84–85 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    New York