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Evelyne Daitz dies at 83; Ran a vital photography gallery
In an undated photo by Tom Groenfeldt, Evelyne Daitz with the photographer George Tice in 1986. Daitz, who worked with Lee D. Witkin at his pioneering Witkin Gallery, generally regarded as the first commercially successful photography gallery in New York, then took it over after his death in 1984 and ran it for another 15 years, died on Oct. 31, 2019, in Manhattan. She was 83. Tom Groenfeldt via The New York Times.

by Neil Genzlinger

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- Evelyne Z. Daitz, who worked with Lee D. Witkin at his pioneering Witkin Gallery, generally regarded as the first commercially successful photography gallery in New York, then took it over after his death in 1984 and ran it for another 15 years, died Oct. 31 in Manhattan. She was 83.

Douglas Forrest, a nephew, said the cause was cardiopulmonary arrest caused by hypertension.

Daitz advanced the careers of countless photographers and helped carry forward Witkin’s belief in the photographic print as a collectible art form, an idea that was relatively new when he founded the gallery in 1969.

She was known for an adventurous programming spirit. During her tenure the gallery exhibited established photographers like Jill Freedman, Evelyn Hofer and Mario Cravo Neto, but it also showed the work of numerous lesser-known ones.

In addition to the many solo exhibitions Daitz mounted, she had a taste for group shows on fanciful themes.

In 1993 there was “On the Elbow,” with works by more than 50 photographers that all featured an elbow in some way. Five years later came “Sur la Tête” (“On the Head”). The photographs in that show, Margarett Loke wrote in reviewing it in The New York Times, were “provocative, mysterious, whimsical, just plain beautiful or a combination thereof.”

When Daitz closed the gallery in 1999, her final exhibition was called “Clothes Off.” It featured not only various nudes, as the title suggested, but also images of garments on clotheslines, a black slip floating above a smokestack-laden skyline, and other unexpected interpretations of the theme.

Mary Engel, director of the Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, which is dedicated to the work of her parents, the photographers Ruth Orkin and Morris Engel, worked at the gallery briefly when she was in college and witnessed Daitz arrange exhibitions that included her parents and numerous other photographers.

“Evelyne was one of the few early women dealers in a male-dominated field, and was highly regarded by the photography world for her professional manner and passion for the photographers she represented,” Engel said by email. “The Witkin Gallery showed iconic photographers and sometimes newer photographers, but it was always a must-see gallery that was on everyone’s list.”

Eveline Iris Zoller was born on April 13, 1936, in Dardagny, Switzerland. Her father, Johann August Zoller, was a blacksmith who also managed a kiosk and gas station with her mother, Paulina (Feller) Zoller.

After attending secondary school in Switzerland, Daitz went to the United States as an au pair. In 1962 she married Howard C. Daitz, a photography dealer and collector. The photographer George Tice, who helped Witkin establish the Witkin Gallery, said Daitz had become interested in photography through her husband’s work.

Forrest, her nephew, said she became a naturalized citizen in 1965, adopting the “Evelyne” spelling of her name then. She became Witkin’s assistant in 1976, about the time the gallery moved from its original location on East 60th Street to East 57th.

During her eight years in that capacity, the gallery solidified its reputation.

“Everyone senses that the Witkin Gallery stands for an aesthetic position that is distinctly different from the positions of other institutions such as, for instance, the Museum of Modern Art,” Gene Thornton wrote in The Times in April 1984 on the occasion of the gallery’s 15th anniversary. “And many would agree that maintaining this position for 15 years has been the gallery’s greatest achievement.”

Six months later, Witkin died and Daitz took over the gallery. She moved it soon after that to SoHo, where many other galleries and artists had gravitated. After closing the gallery in 1999, she continued to represent select photographers, including prominent ones like Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

In addition to her husband and Forrest, she is survived by several other nieces and nephews.

Forrest said that along with her photography expertise, Daitz was known for a fashion habit and a fitness one.

“Her fashion signature was a dragonfly pin,” he said by email. “She had dozens of them and wore one every day.”

As for fitness, she was a regular among yoga aficionados on the Upper West Side, where she lived.

“Her nicknames included ‘the Goddess’ and ‘Big Mama,’” Forrest said. “She was doing full workouts, culminating in headstands, as late as this past September.”

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