Photographer in exile

Fred Stein. Dresden, Paris, New York.

9 July 2021 - 7 November 2021

Fred Stein. You may already know his work, but probably not the photographer himself. Who is the man behind the work? Find out in this exhibition featuring nearly two hundred of his photos.

Mention Albert Einstein and a black and white image comes to mind for most people. There is a good chance that it's the photo that Fred Stein took of the great scientist. Stein was one of the early masters of social documentary photography in the mid-20th century, a pioneer with the 35mm camera and one of the important portrait photographers of his time. 

He made hundreds of portraits of famous contemporaries such as Einstein, Hannah Arendt and Marc Chagall. After his death his work fell into obscurity, but recently it has been in the spotlight again. It will now be on view in the Netherlands for the first time.


Fred Stein (1909-1967) was born in Dresden as the son of a rabbi. He studied law but fled to Paris with his wife Lilo Salzburg when Hitler came to power in 1933, on the pretext of a honeymoon. There they, with thousands of others, found a safe haven, but as a German refugee Stein could no longer work as a lawyer. That is why he looked for work as a journalistic photographer. Lilo and Fred had brought a second-hand Leica from Dresden, which they had given each other as a wedding present. Stein taught himself to photograph in a short time and quickly made a name for himself with political reports, street photography and portraits. When it became too dangerous in France in 1941, Fred and Lilo fled to New York. Just like in Paris, they entered the cultural and artistic circles of European immigrants, which is reflected in the portraits that Fred made. He immediately fell in love with New York: the busy streets, the skyscrapers and the many different neighborhoods. He traveled all over the city with his camera, from Little Italy and China Town, to Harlem and Brooklyn.


Nearly two hundred photos by Stein have been reprinted from the original negatives especially for this exhibition. His versatile work shows a special photographic talent and a lifelong social and political commitment. An immigrant and outsider himself, he had a keen eye for social inequality, poverty, refugees and ethnic minorities.

Personal documents and family photos in the exhibition help to tell the eventful life story of Fred Stein, which was marked by persecution and exile.

The exhibition has been curated in close collaboration with Peter Stein, Fred Stein's son and manager of his father's archive.

Fred Stein. Dresden, Paris, New York. Photographer in exile was on from 9 July to 7 November 2021 at the Jewish Historical Museum.


The exhibition is in the Jewish Historical Museum (JHM), Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, 1011PL, Amsterdam. The JHM is housed in the centuries-old former synagogue complex of the Ashkenazi Jewish community. 


Your ticket provides admission to all exhibitions in all locations in the Jewish Cultural Quarter. You may also attend all events without any additional charge (unless otherwise indicated). Museumkaart holders do not need a ticket.


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