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Ernst N. Schaeffer

  • In exile Ernst Schaeffer diversified his journalistic practice and developed an understanding of Bombay through walking the city streets, taking on street-level-photography and photojournalism.
  • Ernst
  • N.
  • Schaeffer
  • Ernst Schaeffer, E.N. Schaeffer, Ernst Schäffer, later Ernest Norbert Schaeffer and Ernest N. (Norbert/Nathan) Shaffer

  • 1892
  • Breslau ()
  • 1978
  • Bonn (DE)
  • JournalistPhotojournalistTour GuideEditorRadio ModeratorNewspaper Correspondent
  • In exile Ernst Schaeffer diversified his journalistic practice and developed an understanding of Bombay through walking the city streets, taking on street-level-photography and photojournalism.

    Word Count: 24

  • Portrait of Ernest N. Shaffer, around 1965. (© Shaffer 1971; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
  • Exiled in Bombay, the former Ullstein business editor and Berliner Zeitung am Mittag’s deputy editor-in-chief Ernst Schaeffer was forced to diversify his journalistic activities to generate income. He became an English and German tour and travel guide for Thomas Cook, translated German film scripts to English for Bhavnani film studios, gave educational talks on All India Radio, and, as a self-taught photographer, started his “Individual Photo Studio” (Shaffer 1971, 48) in his Colaba living room, specializing in portrait photography.

    The autodidact Schaeffer “threw himself into the specialist literature and began to work systematically with the camera.” (Shaffer 1971, 45f.) After some practice he learned to work with large format cameras and familiarized himself with a wide range of lenses and lights. By February 1936 he had developed his photographic skills to the point of being able to hold an exhibition: In collaboration with the Afga Photo Company headed by Albrecht von Leyden, he presented his photos in a Rolleiflex Exhibition in the Taj Mahal Hotel (The Times of India, 6 February 1936, 1), demonstrating “[t]he value of the small camera for taking pictures.” (The Times of India, 6 February 1936, 16). The success of the exhibition might have germinated the idea of publishing the photographic travel guide Pictorial Bombay and supported his search for a publishing house, which he found in the New Book Co. Pvt. Ltd. in the Kitab Mahal, owned by the Taraporevala family. Pictorial Bombay is an unusual example of a guidebook written from an exilic perspective, offering insights into both how Schaeffer grasped the colonial city and how he contributed to developing Bombay as a tourist destination by exploring it through walking and street-level-photography.

    Continuing to draw on his international network, Schaeffer combined journalism with photography to establish himself internationally as a photojournalist. With the support of his former Ullstein colleagues, in Bombay Schaeffer received assignments for the New York City-based Black Star photo agency and Life magazine. His networks in India – including members of Indian and British Indian political and economic elites, leaders of the Indian independence movement, Indian royal families and members of Bombay’s avant-garde art circles like Mulk Raj Anand and Anil de Silva and Walter Kaufmann – enabled him to present English-speaking, international audiences with images from India that they were unlikely to have seen before, like the photos of  a Maharaja’s wedding in Bhopal that were published in Life magazine in June 1939. Locally he engaged himself in Bombay’s Jewish exile and relief networks, and became a founding member of the Jewish Relief Association.

    For his journalistic work Schaeffer travelled widely in India. In Bhavnagar in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat he applied his self-taught photographic skills to document the renovation and expansion of the Nilambagh Place by his German architect friend Philipp Kanoffsky (born 1886). His anecdote about Kanoffsky coming to Baroda and later to Bhavnagar (Shaffer 1971, p. 35ff) together with many more stories are collected in his autobiographical account Ein Emigrant entdeckt Indien [An Emigrant Discovers India] from 1971.

    The Second World War interrupted transcontinental transport, communication and the import of photography supplies. Tourism vanished, as did Schaeffer’s other sources of income. Having just received British citizenship, career-wise Schaeffer survived as a print production manager for an American advertisement company for the next three and a half years. In October 1943 Ernst Schaeffer became the assistant manager of Oxford University Press, eventually working there for twelve years before returning to freelance journalism. Schaeffer’s connection to India remained long after he left the subcontinent in the early 1960s for Germany; he contributed, for example, to setting up the Südasien (South Asia) department of Deutsche Welle (see Shaffer 1971).

    Word Count: 600

  • Photo Studio Ernst Schaeffer's logo and address (© Antiquariat Gerhard Gruber (Heilbronn); All rights reserved).
    Portrait of Maharaja Raol Sir Shri Krishna Kumarsinhji Bhavsinhji KCSI (1912–1965), the last ruling Maharaja of Bhavnagar State by Ernst Schaeffer, around 1935 (© Antiquariat Gerhard Gruber (Heilbronn); All rights reserved).
    Ernst Schaeffer’s photographic documentation of the renovation and expansion of Nilambagh Palace in Bhavnagar, mid 1930s (© Antiquariat Gerhard Gruber (Heilbronn); All rights reserved).
    Ernst Schaeffer, Juhu (Pictorial Bombay, p. 54; Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
    Cover of Ernest N. Shaffer’s autobiography Ein Emigrant entdeckt Indien (Photo: Margit Franz 2021).
  • Anonymous. “Schäffer, Ernst (1892–1978) .” Kalliope-Verbund, Accessed 30 June 2021.

    Franz, Margit. Gateway India: Deutschsprachiges Exil in Indien zwischen britischer Kolonialherrschaft, Maharadschas und Gandhi. CLIO, 2015.

    Franz, Margit and Rachel Lee, “An Exile’s Guide: Ernst Schaeffer’s Pictorial Bombay and the Construction of Bombay’s Touristscape.” Urban Exile: Theories, Methods, Research Practices, edited by Burcu Dogramaci et al., Intellect Ltd., forthcoming 2022.

    Ganor, Sheer and Rebekka Grossmann, “Displacement in Stills: German-Jewish Photographers on the Move.” Migrant Knowledge, May 14, 2021, Accessed 24 July 2021.

    Krishnamoorthy, Kaushalya. India and the Exile Experience as Mirrored in the Writings of Jewish Exiles and Indian Writers. Doctoral thesis, Wayne State University, 2003. ResearchGate, Accessed 20 March 2021.

    Reiter, Andrea. “Diaspora und Hybridität: Der Exilant als Mittler.” Diaspora – Exil als Krisenerfahrung. Jüdische Bilanzen und Perspektiven (Zwischenwelt Jahrbuch, 10), edited by Armin Eidherr et al., Drava Verlag, 2006, pp. 36–51.

    Roth, Helene “‘First Pictures’: New York through the Lens of Emigrated European Photographers in the 1930s and 1940s.” Contact Zones: Photography, Migration and Cultural Encounters in the United States, edited by Justin Carville and Sigrid Lien, Leuven University Press, 2021, pp. 111–132.

    Schaeffer, E.N. Pictorial Bombay. New Book Co., [1936].

    Schaeffer, Ernst Nathan. “Feast in Bhopal. A Marriage Unites Two of India’s Leading Muslims.” Life, 19 June 1939, pp. 44–48.

    Schaeffer, Ernest N. “Emigrantenleben in Indien.” Aufbau, vol. 7, no. 18, 2 March 1941, p. 7.

    Shaffer, Ernest N. Ein Emigrant entdeckt Indien. Verlag Information und Wissen, 1971.

    Voigt, Johannes H. “Die Emigration von Juden aus Mitteleuropa nach Indien während der Verfolgung durch das NS-Regime.” Wechselwirkungen, Jahrbuch aus Lehre und Forschung der Universität Stuttgart, 1991, pp. 83–95.

    Word Count: 275

  • Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen

    The Times of India [Mumbai] Archive on ProQuest, via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Accessed 30 June 2021.

    Word Count: 23

  • Word Count: 6

  • Margit Franz; Rachel Lee
  • Cleave House, Katau Road, Colaba, Bombay (Cleave House
    90, Wode House Road, Colaba Causeway, Colaba Mumbai, Maharashtra 400005, India)

  • Bombay
  • Margit Franz; Rachel Lee. "Ernst N. Schaeffer." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 23-09-2021.
  • Pictorial Bombay

    The guidebook Pictorial Bombay is a light-hearted portrayal of Bombay and its inhabitants as seen by an outsider, the German emigrant Ernst Schaeffer, through photos and texts in 1936.

    Word Count: 28

    New Book Co.
    Publishing HouseBook Shop

    This bookstore was a hub for Bombay's creatives and intellectuals.

    Word Count: 10

    Mulk Raj Anand
    WriterPhilosopherArt PatronCultural Critic

    As a global socialist and modernist, Mulk Raj Anand sought and shaped opportunities for intellectual exchanges between Asia and Europe.

    Word Count: 20

    Walter Kaufmann

    The 12-year exile in Bombay shaped Walter Kaufmann’s life and work; his signature tune for All India Radio is played till today.

    Word Count: 23

    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

    Jewish Relief Association Bombay
    Relief Organisation

    In 1934, the first refugees from National Socialism founded a Jewish aid association in Bombay called the Jewish Relief Association (JRA) to help refugees in financial and other difficulties.

    Word Count: 28

    The Leydens: Sculpture, Paintings, Cartoons

    In 1948 Albrecht and Rudi von Leyden sold their personal works of art in order to set up an “Artists' Aid Fund”, which became an institution in the following years.

    Word Count: 29