Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Laurence Salzmann (born 1944) is a photographer and filmmaker from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania whose love of photography began with his first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, at age eleven. Over the course of his career, he has focused on social commentaries on little known groups in America and abroad, with a particular emphasis on the Jewish people in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Son of Eunice Chaiken Salzmann, Salzmann grew up in the 1800 block of Pine Street and was raised by Zenora Carter. His paternal grandparents immigrated to Philadelphia from Romania. He married Ayșe Gürsan-Salzmann, who was born and raised in Istanbul and was trained as an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Salzmann graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia in 1960; from Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) in Paris in 1962; and from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1965, with a BA in German literature. He returned to Temple, earning his MA in Anthropology in 1971. Throughout his long career, he exhibited his photographs in both solo and group exhibitions, as well as having his photographs in permanent collections in museums across the globe. He has published more than 15 books, produced more than a dozen films, and received awards and fellowships from as early as 1970, all based upon his photographic oeuvre.
Learning to develop and print photographs from Ruben Goldberg, a photographer at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Salzmann, who was shy as a child felt that his "camera provided [him] with a voice to communicate with the world and enabled [him] to enter into conversations with people with whom [he] might not otherwise have had spoken," (Biographical sketch). His experience growing up in Philadelphia during the 1950s made him aware of racism and culture and class differences, which affected and inspired his work throughout his career.
At age seventeen, he purchased an Asahi Pentax camera, hitchhiked to Mexico and began his career as a photographer in earnest. His willingness and interest in learning the languages of his subjects and immersing himself in their communities have resulted in photographs that are personal and frankly intimate.
While his home is Philadelphia, over the years, he worked on projects in Juarez, Mexico (1965-1966), New York City (1968-1970), Tlaxcalan, Mexico (1969-1971), Rădăuți, Romania (1974-1976), Jerusalem (1976-1977), Transylvania (1981-1982), Turkey (1984-1989), Lithuania (1994), Cuba (1999-2003), Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico (2003-2010), Turkey (2010-2012), Argentina (2015), Windley Key, Florida (2016-2017), and Peru (2016-2018).
According to a biographical sketch at the time of La Baie publicity, "Salzmann's training in anthropology provides him with a theoretical insight into how people adapt to their existing conditions; and with his images, he illustrates people in relation to their environment. Salzmann's photographic method involves long term participation and observation of a group or event."
Salzmann states, "After fifty years, the magic that I felt when I developed my first roll of 620 film is still there. The thrill of making a photograph and then printing it out even if just on a digital printer still fascinates me as much as the first time I saw my print appear in the developer bath," (Biographical sketch)
This collection contains a significant portion of the photographic output from Laurence Salzmann's long career in documenting little known communities throughout the world. Researchers will find black and white and color photographs dating from 1967 to 2018; as well as other photographic, book, and film project documentation, such as book mock ups, exhibition publicity and planning, and biographical sketches of subjects of photographs.
It is important to note that this finding aid currently describes ONLY the physical collection--the born digital material and the digital versions of photographs will be made available via the finding aid in future. Researchers interested in seeing digital photographs will find some on Salzmann's website (http://laurencesalzmann.virb.com/timeline-of-photography); however, not all photographs found in the collection are on Salzmann's site; and there are photographs on the site that were not part of Salzmann's gift to the University of Pennsylvania.
This collection is arranged in two series: I. Photo, film and book projects; and II. Collected photographs and material. The bulk of the collection is contained in Series I, which is divided into 27 alphabetically arranged projects. For the most part, these projects are described at the project level, using Salzmann's own descriptions whenever possible, and contain photographic prints. Some, but not all, also contain contact sheets, book mock-ups/plans/proposals, and/or exhibition plans/proposals/publicity.
Projects include: Aegean Stones, Bagels, La Baie/Bath Scenes, Cardon Cactus, City/2, Diamonds, Échele Ganas (Do Your Best): A Life Left Behind, "Every Land is Full of Thee, And Every Sea:" Images of the Jewish Diaspora, Face to Face: Encounters Between Jews and Blacks, Gordion Dogs, Imaging Cutumba, Jerusalem's People in Public, The Last Jews of Rădăuți, Lithuanian Memories, La Lucha/The Struggle, Luis Family, Mioritza, Misk'i Kachi Sal Dulce, Neighbors on the Block, Peru, Rădăuți Youth, Single Room Occupancy, Souvenirs of a Recent Time, Tlaxcalan Sketches, Turkey's Jews, Vents, and Windley Key. There is some overlap between projects--particularly between La Baie/Bath Scenes, The Last Jews of Rădăuți, Mioritza, Rădăuți Youth, and Souvenirs of a Recent Time; as well as Neighbors and on the Block which is a selected group of images from the project Single Room Occupancy.
Series II. Collected photographs and materials includes only a few items, including images of art not created by Salzmann and largely from the Jewish Museum of Greece, business cards, and a number of historic wedding photographs from Romania. These wedding photographs, called Mircea Juga, document dozens of couples wearing traditional dress and are professional cartes-de-visite.
Taken as a whole, this collection provides glimpses into a number of worlds not typically documented--immigrants, the poor, shepherds, and changing or vanishing communities. In addition, the viewpoint of the photographer, Laurence Salzmann, is evident, providing insight into the man behind the images.
Gift of Laurence and Ayșe Salzmann, 2018.
- Rădăuți (Romania)
- Indians of South America -- Peru -- Social life and customs
- Mexico -- Social life and customs
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Holly Mengel; rehousing performed by Donna Brandolisio
- Finding Aid Date
- 2020 March 11
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.