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Early Life

Jeanne Mandello

Photographer in Exile

Jeanne Mandello was a pioneer of modern photography and a Jewish avant-garde woman artist working in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.

She belongs to the same school of modern female photographers of the early 20th century as her contemporaries Grete Stern, Ellen Auerbach, Ilse Bing, Marianne Breslauer, Gisèle Freund, or, even though some years older, Germaine Krull.

Born in 1907 in Frankfurt, of Jewish origin, Jeanne Mandello was trained in 1920s Berlin and was one of the first women photographers to work with a Leica. She left Germany in 1934 for Paris, her first exile. Inspired by the artistic avant-garde of the Weimar Republic and by the Bauhaus school as well as by the 1930s Paris art scene where people like Man Ray redefined modern photography, she and her husband Arno established themselves as fashion photographers and worked, alongside photographer Hermann Landshoff, for prestigious fashion labels.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Jeanne had to flee again and emigrated to Uruguay, where her photography work, especially of Montevideo and Punta del Este, became a perfect example of the mutual influence between “Old” and “New” World: traditional portraits became sophisticated solarisations, still lifes were created through the technique of the photogram and Bauhaus-inspired architecture became postcard motifs. Above all, her numerous photographs of woods and trees show that through all her trials her positive outlook on life and her inner strength remained intact.

Jeanne Mandello became a cosmopolitan artist by the force of circumstances and brought the geometry of the Bauhaus and the surrealist fantasy of pre-war Paris to her later countries of residence, Uruguay, Brazil and Spain. Her eye remained European and wherever she lived her photographs rendered homage to her new countries. No country can claim her for itself but her work is another example of the universality of art, which transcends all physical frontiers.

Forgotten for nearly 50 years because of the historical circumstances surrounding her life, she is today rediscovered and seen as she should have been: an avant-garde Jewish-German woman artist and a pioneer in the field of modern photography.