The title of a current exhibition of works by the late German Jewish American photographer John Gutmann, “An Emigrant’s Visual Discovery of a New World,” says it all. An immigrant to the United States, Gutmann brought to the striking black and white images he created the eye and sensibility, not only of a foreigner, but also of a refugee.
Arranged along the walls of San Francisco’s BJE Jewish Community Library (JCL) are 32 photographs by Gutmann, plus a selection of his paintings and memorabilia. All are on loan from the John Gutmann Fellowship Trust of the San Francisco Foundation, to which the photographer left his archives upon his death in 1998.
Born in Breslau, Germany to a prosperous Jewish family in 1905, Gutmann studied painting at the regional Academy of Arts and Crafts. In an attempt to further his career he moved to Berlin in 1927, where he taught art, pursued a masters degree, and honed an expressionist style. When the Professional Service Restoration Act denied employment to non-Aryans in April 1933, Gutmann saw the writing on the wall and decided to emigrate.
Watch a slideshow of photographs by John Gutmann: