At the start of his lifelong career, Magnum photographer Leonard Freed (1929-2006) lived in Amsterdam for many years, from 1957 to 1970. As an American Jew from a family of Russian immigrants, he felt at ease in this historic city with its liberal spirit and longstanding tradition of tolerance for Jews.
Freed was fascinated by the remarkable postwar recovery of Jewish life in Amsterdam, where only 20,000 out of 80,000 Jews had survived the Shoah. This became the topic of his first major documentary project as a professional photographer. He made a multifaceted and compelling portrait of the city’s Jewish community, which had endured unimaginable suffering but was now striving to forget, and building a new life with exceptional resilience and vitality. His photographs capture the atmosphere of optimism that prevailed in the Jewish community at the time, and testify to the courage and willpower of those who had survived the war. Today we know that the traumas of war cannot be suppressed, but in those days, that seemed like the only way of coping. The buried pain and grief lingered on, resurfacing only many years later. Over time, Freed’s photographs have therefore acquired additional layers of meaning. They now form a unique and valuable historical document.
In 1958, a small selection from Freed’s documentary series was published in his first photo book, Joden van Amsterdam (Jews of Amsterdam), by publishing house De Bezige Bij.
In 2013, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam rediscovered the series in Freed’s archives. The museum acquired 80 vintage prints and 150 new prints of previously unpublished images from Brigitte Freed, the photographer’s widow.
This book presents some 150 photos, with an introduction by curator of photography Bernadette van Woerkom.
Leonard Freed born in Brooklyn, New York, first took up photography in 1953 while traveling in Europe. His work focuses on ordinary people going about their everyday lives, expressing a special bond with outsiders and the oppressed. Freed made many probing documentary photo series about social issues, including one on black Americans and their struggle for civil rights. In 1972, he was admitted to the famous photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Throughout his career, he showed an ongoing interest in Jewish life around the world.Leonard Freed born in Brooklyn, New York, first took up photography in 1953 while traveling in Europe. His work focuses on ordinary people going about their everyday lives, expressing a special bond with outsiders and the oppressed. Freed made many probing documentary photo series about social issues, including one on black Americans and their struggle for civil rights. In 1972, he was admitted to the famous photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Throughout his career, he showed an ongoing interest in Jewish life around the world.
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About the Author
Leonard Freed (October 23, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York – November 29, 2006 in Garrison, New York) was a documentary photojournalist and longtime Magnum member. He was born to Jewish, working-class parents of Eastern European descent.
Freed had wanted to be a painter, but began taking photographs in the Netherlands and discovered a new passion. He traveled in Europe and Africa before returning to the United States where he attended the New School and studied with Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper's Bazaar. In 1958 he moved to Amsterdam to photograph its Jewish community. Through the 1960s he continued to work as a freelance photojournalist, traveling widely. He documented such events and subjects as the Civil Rights movement in America (1964–65), the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the New York City police department (1972–79). His career blossomed during the American civil rights movement, when he traveled the country with Martin Luther King, Jr. in his celebrated march across the US from Alabama to Washington. This journey gave him the opportunity to produce his 1968 book, Black in White America, which brought considerable attention. His work on New York City law enforcement also led to a book, Police Work which was published in 1980.
Early in Freed's career, Edward Steichen purchased three photographs from Freed for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In 1967, Cornell Capa selected Freed as one of five photographers to participate in his "Concerned Photography" exhibition. Freed joined Magnum Photos in 1972. Publications to which Freed contributed over the years included Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Fortune, Libération, Life, Look, Paris-Match, Stern, and The Sunday Times Magazine of London.
In later years, Freed continued shooting photographs in Italy, Turkey, Germany, Lebanon and the U.S. He also shot four films for Japanese, Dutch and Belgian television.
Table of Contents
Foreword Emile Schrijver 6
Introduction Bernadette van Woerkom 8
In Jewish Circles 26
Life in the Old Jewish Quarter 98
At Home in Amsterdam 118
The Young Generation and the Future: To Leave or To Stay? 134
Commemorating the Shoah 150
Text: Bernadette van Woerkom, Wally de Lang, Yaël Koeleman, Margreet Udo 150
Publications and Collections 158