“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Write an essay of 1,000 words on an image of your choice. The image can be anything you like, from a famous art photograph to a family snapshot, but please make sure that your chosen image has scope for you to make a rigorous and critical analysis. (OCA C&N, p105)
To choose my picture, I looked through The Family of Man for a suitable photo that also appealed to my interest. There were many photos that I could have happily chosen, but I was drawn to one simply captioned as ‘France. Izis Rapho Guillumette’ (p138), showing a teenage boy standing among toppled gravestones in a church yard. Other than ‘France’, none of the other names were familiar to me, so research was essential. As well as being a poignant post-war photo, the picture struck a chord with me as over the previous weekend, I been looking at the tomb-stones in the ancient church of Linton, in the Yorkshire Dales and the loss of life to war in an already small rural community struck me as a great tragedy.
Izis was the preferred name of Israel Bidermanas (1911-1980). I found a few biographical facts on the blog Masters of Photography. As a young man of 19, he fled his native Lithuania (then under Tsarist Russia) and arrived in Paris destitute. Datab identifies Izis as Luthianian-Jewish, which is highly significant at that time. He belonged ‘French humanist movement that focused on scenes of everyday Parisian life, but he never achieved the fame of his contemporaries Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis and Brassai.’ Isiz’s son Manuel is quoted as saying ‘Izis’s “poetic sadness” was rooted in personal tragedy.’ Cooke and Kinnedberg describe Isiz as one of the ‘great poetic photographers of the post-war years (ibid, p246).
As Izis did not achieve the fame of his contemporaries, it was not easy to find online resources to discover more about the photograph itself. However, the Spitalfields Life blog features the image and places it in London, not France as captioned by Steichen. Specifically, the blog references the book Charmes de Londres (by Jacques Prévert and Izis Bidermanas), which delivers a ‘vivid and poetic vision of the shabby old capital in the threadbare post-war years.’ It places the photo in In the cemetery of St John, Wapping. I have located online a £2.80 used copy of the book and await with anticipation to see if it will provide more information. I’ve also emailed the blog in the hope of some source information.
The photo is shown below (source: spitalfieldslife.com)
Cooke T & Kinnedberg C (ed.) (1997). The Photography Book (2014 edition). New York. Phaidon Press Inc.
Datab [online database]. Izis. Available from: http://datab.us/i/Izis [accessed 28.3.16]
Masters of Photography (2011) [blog]. Izis — Israëlis Bidermanas. Available from: http://mastersofphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/izis-israelis-bidermanas.html [accessed 28.3.16]
Rosenblum N (1984). A world history of photography (revised edition). New York, Abbeville Publishing Group.
Spitalfields Life (2014) [website]. Izis Bidermanas’ London. Available from: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2014/02/11/izis-london/ [accessed 28.3.16]
Steichen E (1955, copyright renewed 1983). The Family of Man (2015 edition). New York, The Museum of Modern Art.