Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sasha Stone

Drawing and colouring, for the painter, correspond to the violinist's production of sound; the photographer, like the pianist, has the advantage of a mechanical device that is subject to restrictive laws, while the violinist is under no such restraint. (Walter Benjamin, Little History of Photography)

Sasha Stone, Untitled [Berlin girl], 1920s

Sasha Stone (1895-1940) was born Aleksander Serge Steinsapir in St. Petersburg, Russia, of Jewish parents.  He lived and worked in Europe and America between the wars and is best known for his portraits, nude studies, photographs of Berlin and for his photojournalism. Stone studied engineering in Warsaw, and then spent several years in New York, where he obtained American citizenship and chose the pseudonym Sasha Stone. After a sculptor and painter education in Paris and Berlin, Stone described himself as an expert in the fields of advertising, architecture, illustration, film, and stage design.

Sasha Stone, Erwin Piscator Entering the Nollendorf Theater, Berlin, 1929

Cami Stone (1898-1975) was born Wilhelmine Schammelhout in Belgium. After a stay in New York, where she founded an import-export company and, in 1918, married a wealthy banker (who disappeared without trace a few months later), she moved to Berlin and joined the circle around Sasha Stone. Influenced by the Bauhaus aesthetics and New Objectivity, both became pioneers of photo journalism and advertising photography.

Sasha Stone, Street Sweepers on Wittenberg Platz, Berlin 1929

In the 1920s, Sasha Stone worked as a professional photographer in Berlin, primarily for the illustrated magazines published by the Ullstein publishing house. He belonged to the circle around the constructivist periodical "G", which included Moholy-Nagy, Mies van der Rohe, El Lissitzky and Walter Benjamin. He created the photomontage for the original book jacket of Benjamin's famous Einbahnstraße (One-Way Street) - which is still used for the English Penguin edition:

In 1929, Stone published Berlin in Pictures, which is extremely difficult to find today. Both, his and his wife Cami's photographs were published in the German photography annual Das Deutsche Lichtbild. Threatened by the rising Fascism, they fled Germany in 1932 and moved to Brussels. Their studio was located at 18 rue de Naples until the German invasion of Belgium in 1940. Sasha Stone's nude work appeared in Les Femmes, and was published by Editions Arts et Metiers Graphiques, Paris, in 1933. His nudes are usually in poses that are quite modernist in sensibility, and the lighting emphasizes their sculptural shapes and angles.

Cami or Sasha Stone, Female Nude (Marie Louise Lebeau), 1933
The couple separated in 1939. Cami again assumed her maiden name. Sasha died in 1939 during his flight to the United States in Perpignan. 800 photos of the archive of Cami and Sasha Stone, lost until recently, were auctioned in Argenteuil, France, in 2009. Cami Stones nephew had rescued the archive during World War II and stored it until last year.

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