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Leco Photo Service

  • 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.
  • 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

  • The photo lab and darkroom were founded by Leo Cohn, who had worked as a professional photographer in Germany and managed a shirt factory. No more details are available on his life and work before his emigration and all that is known is that he emigrated to New York around 1939 and “went into business as a photofinisher, with Black Star picture agency as his first customer. His first laboratory was the kitchenette of his apartment on the 94th Street in New York City. From the first, his policy was to offer a high type of photofinishing service at a reasonable price to professional photographers. There was a real need for the service” (Kelley 1947, 192). From October 1940, he ran his business from the Salmon Tower Building at 11 West 42nd Street. It was opposite the New York Public Library and near Central Station, close to such photo agencies as Black Star, Rapho Guillumette, PIX, Three Lions and Graphic House and also close to the editorial headquarters of magazines like U.S. Camera, Life and Popular Photography.

    As not every émigré photographer developed and enlarged his images by himself in a studio and there was a need for images during the 1940s, Leco Photo Service provided an important service and also acted as a contact hub. While they waited for their pictures to be processed, the photographers had the opportunity meet and get to know other photographers, editors and writers. Among the lab's émigré clients were David Seymour (Chim), Herbert Gehr, Philippe Halsman, Fritz Henle, Ylla, Eric Schaal, Elli Marcus and Henry Rox as well as Andreas Feininger.
    After his arrival in New York in 1939 David Seymour worked at Leco where he enriched his knowledge of photo chemistry and physics in fine-grain developing as well as learning new, faster methods of print control (Bing 1996; Beck 2005).

    Besides David Seymour, the German émigré Erika Stone also started her later career as a photographer working as a darkroom assistant at Leco. Articles in Popular Photography on Leco’s photo lab, and on work opportunities for women in the photo sector and women photographers, cites Leco Photo Service as a business where, in 1947, the staff were mainly women. Among them were Ilse Heller, Ilse Nothman, Ilse Rumpler, Ilse Steinitz, Bernd Steinitz, Jeanne Granolles, Marcelle Alexander and Seymour Levine. (Kelley 1945; Kelley 1947) One article reveals that many women and emigrants were hired by photographic businesses. We know from other émigré women, such as Ruth Bernhard and Erika Stone, that photofinishing and darkroom work were largely female occupations and provided a starting point for émigré and non-émigré women in the photo business and a subsequent career as a photographer. So, it is possible that other women employed as assistants at Leco also went on to careers as photographers, though no names or details are available.

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  • 11 West 42nd Street, Midtown Manhattan, New York City (1940–?).

  • 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).
  • Beck, Tom. David Seymour (Chim). Phaidon, 2005.

    Bondi, Inge. “1947 – Germany.” (1996) CHIM: The Photographs of David Seymour. Accessed 5 February 2021.

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

    Kelley, Etna M. “Women in Photography.” Popular Photography, June 1945, pp. 20–23, 56/57, 108–114.

    Kelley, Etna M. “Photofinishing Plus.” Popular Photography, February 1947, pp. 84/85, 192–194.

    Le Goff, Hervé. Pierre Gassmann. La photographie à l’épreuve. Delory, 2000.

    Stevens, Norma, et al. New York at Night. Photography after dark. Power House Books, 2012.

    Stone, Erika. “Es war ein Schock für mich als wir erfuhren, daß wir jüdisch sind.” Emigranten in New York, edited by Ellen Küppers, Klaus Boer, 1995, pp. 33–47.

    Stone, Erika. Mostly People. Fotografien einer deutschen Emigrantin in New York, edited by Sibylle Appuhn-Radtke and Helmut Heß, exh. cat. Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, 2001.

    Stone, Erika. Especially People. Einfach Menschen. Photographien – Photographs. Gryphon Verlag, 2004.

    Word Count: 138

  • Helene Roth
  • 1939
  • Andreas Feininger, Fritz Henle, Henry Rox, Erika Stone, Ylla.

  • New York
  • No
  • Helene Roth. "Leco Photo Service." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 04-05-2021.
  • 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

    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

    Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs
    New York

    Manhattan Magic is a photobook which was published in 1937 by the German émigré photographer Mario Bucovich in New York City.

    Word Count: 20

    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

    Oceana Publications
    Publishing House
    New York

    Oceana Publications Inc was a publishing house specialising in law and civil rights founded by the British émigré Philip F. Cohen (1911–1998) in 1945.

    Word Count: 22

    Rapho Guillumette
    Photo Agency
    New York

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

    Word Count: 13

    Three Lions Inc.
    Photo Agency
    New York

    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

    Photo Agency
    New York

    Photo-Representatives was a photo agency founded by the photographers Erika Stone and Anita Beer in 1953.

    Word Count: 15

    Pavelle Laboratories Inc.
    Photo LabPhoto Supplier
    New York

    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

    Modernage Photographic Services Inc
    Photo Lab
    New York

    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

    Service Photo Suppliers Inc.
    Photo Supplier
    New York

    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

    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

    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

    New York

    Ylla was an Austrian-born photographer who emigrated to New York in 1941. Specialising in animal photography, she produced not only studio photographs, but also shot outside on urban locations in the metropolis.

    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

    Henry Rox
    New York

    Henry Rox was a German émigré sculptor and photographer who, in 1938, arrived in New York with his wife, the journalist and art historian Lotte Rox (née Charlotte Fleck), after an initial exile in London. Besides his work as a sculptor, he began creating humorous anthropomorphised fruit and vegetable photographs.

    Word Count: 50

    PIX Publishing Inc.
    Photo Agency
    New York

    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