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A Woman with a Camera: Liselotte Grschebina Opens at Martin-Gropius Bau
Liselotte Grschebina, Sport in Israel, around 1937, gelatin silver print © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

BERLIN.- The Martin-Gropius-Bau presents the first retrospective of the photographer Liselotte Grschebina (1908-1994), showing 100 photos taken by the artist in Germany and Palestine between 1929 and the 1940s. Liselotte Grschebina was represented with selected photographs in the 2005 exhibition “The New Hebrews. 100 Years of Art in Israel” held in the Martin-Gropius-Bau.

Born in Germany of Jewish parents, Liselotte Grschebina was forced to leave the country in 1934. She went to Palestine, where she was to remain for the rest of her life. Her photographic works were only discovered by her son, Beni Gjebin, after her death. In the year 2000 he donated the collection, which comprised about 1,800 photos, to the Photography Department of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, where the material, which was disorganized, undated and provided with only very sparse accompanying information, was systematized.

The life and work of Liselotte Grschebina has scarcely been studied to date. Only a few of her photos that had been published in newspapers and a 1938 calendar were known before the arrival of the collection at the Israel Museum.

Liselotte Grschebina, née Billigheimer, was born the daughter of a Karlsruhe merchant on 2 May 1908. When she was six years old, her father was killed while serving at the front in the First World War. From 1925 to 1928 she studied at the Baden Art School in Karlsruhe (now a state academy). Upon graduating in 1929 she herself taught photography there until 1931. A year later she opened her own studio under the name of “Bilfoto”, specializing in advertising photography and children’s portraits. Her independence did not last long, as the Nazi seizure of power forced her to close her studio. In March 1934 she and her husband left for Palestine, where they settled in Tel Aviv.

The present retrospective reveals the art of a young woman who in the period of the Weimar Republic was inspired by the New Sobriety (Neue Sachlichkeit). The Neue Sachlichkeit was distinguished by clarity of form and structure and the beauty of simple things. At the same time it had a documentary character, which concentrated on the essence of an object. Grschebina developed this style further in her new home in Palestine and integrated her work with that of the influential group of German photographers, who came with the fifth wave of immigration (Hebrew: aliyah) and settled mainly in Tel Aviv.

After her arrival in Palestine Grschebina and her partner Ellen Rosenberg opened a studio. For Liselotte Grschebina this collaboration was a great source of inspiration. They called their studio “Ishon”, which in Hebrew means “apple of the eye” or “manikin”, with a view to attracting customers wanting children’s photos.

In 1936 Ellen Rosenberg left the country, whereupon Liselotte Grschebina replaced her as official photographer of the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO). When shortly afterwards, with courage and modest financial means, the country’s first association of photographers, the “Association of Professional Photographers” was founded, Grschebina was involved. Meetings were held in the cafés of Tel Aviv. The agenda generally involved members finding ways of supporting one another in coping with professional life in Israel and in the distribution of their photos both in Israel and abroad. In 1941 the Association launched a group exhibition in the Logos Gallery in Tel Aviv’s Ben Yehuda Street.

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