Sonia Handelman Meyer obituary (103 yo)

Feb 12, 1920 - Sep 11, 2022


8 months ago · Art · 112

As a member of the Photo League in the Nineteen Forties and ’50s, she roved New York City, capturing the humanity of ordinary people. She become 87 when her work became rediscovered.

Sonia Handelman Meyer, whose memorable black and white street photography round New York City within the Forties and Fifties meditated her education at the Photo League, a left-leaning collective of photographers who believed their paintings should alternate bad social situations, died on September 11 at her domestic in Charlotte, N.C. She changed into 102, having enjoyed a past due-existence rediscovery of her paintings in the final 15 years.

Her son, Joe Meyer, confirmed the dying.

Ms. Handelman Meyer joined the innovative New York-primarily based Photo League in 1943, studying approximately socially engaged pictures in workshops from one among its founders, Sid Grossman, and other teachers. She soon started out making her way around the city with her Rolleicord digital camera, unobtrusively shooting the humanity of ordinary people doing regular matters.

In Spanish Harlem, she determined a forlorn little woman shyly status atop a slump; a set of young adults, one among whom stared her down; and three boys who affected tough guy poses after chasing her down the street stressful that she picture them.

In Manhattan, she photographed three Black men, which include a police officer, grimly looking an anti-lynching protest in 1946 after Black couples had been killed in Georgia.

At the newly integrated Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, she photographed a lady dancing with Santa Claus and a touch boy in a gown (Ms. Handelman Meyer mentioned him as “my lovely boy”) searching out from at the back of the bars of a crib.

On the Lower East Side of Manhattan, she came upon new arrivals to the US — weary adults and mothers with kids on their laps — waiting for assist out of doors the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit company that keeps to help resettle refugees.

“When you exit on the road and you see things, they don’t seem to have an effect,” Ms. Handelman Meyer informed The New York Times in 2011. “But after you start to work with a camera and have the discussions we had in class, you see info. Faces, homes and streets seem to have a whole lot greater significance.”

The Photo League shut down in 1951 amid accusations that it become a Communist the front. Four years in advance, Attorney General Tom C. Clark had placed it on a list of subversive businesses. A paid informer had accused Mr. Grossman of being a Communist.

As the league’s secretary on the time, Ms. Handelman Meyer replied the workplace phone while requests for remark approximately the accusations poured in from the media.

“It got to be an excessive amount of,” she informed The Times. “They have been blacklisting people. There have been photographers who couldn't get their passports for remote places jobs. Little through little, it dissolved.”

When the league closed, Ms. Handelman Meyer placed her snap shots and negatives in packing containers and moved on with her existence. They wouldn’t be opened for decades.

“She became scared till the day she died that the F.B.I. Would trap up with her,” Mr. Meyer said in a cellphone interview, including that she and his father, Jerome Meyer, a biomedical engineer, whom she married in 1950, lived underneath assumed names for three years in Philadelphia

Sonia Handelman turned into born on Feb. 12, 1920, in Lakewood, N.J., and grew up in New York City. Her parents had been Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Her father, Harry, who worked within the fur commercial enterprise, turned into from Bessarabia, a region in Eastern Europe that now straddles Moldova and Ukraine. Her mother, Francesca (Kupsucker) Handelman, who was from Lodz, Poland, turned into a seamstress and milliner.

Sonia graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in English literature from Queens College in 1941. Shortly earlier than the US entered World War II, she took a activity in Puerto Rico working in a warehouse for the Army Signal Corps, in which she started taking images.

She became curious about the photos of poverty taken there through Lou Stoumen, a photographer for the National Youth Administration. He praised her paintings and endorsed that she have a look at on the Photo League.

When she back to New York in 1943, she started her schooling on the Photo League at the same time as holding down a paid activity operating for america Office of War Information, which promoted American regulations in World War II even though films, radio suggests, pictures and posters.

Through the Photo League, she hoped to trade the sector.

“Without the highbrow motivation, I probably wouldn’t have taken these pictures,” she informed The Charlotte Observer in 2015. “I turned into a radical inside the ’40s — and no longer only in the ’40s.”

After the Photo League closed, Ms. Handelman Meyer found paintings as a morgue librarian at Dell Publishing, a scientific photographer at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (now NewYork-Presbyterian), a photographer for the public family members company Ruder and Finn, a replacement instructor, and a university textbook editor on the Prentice Hall publishing residence.

She persisted to take photos, but they had been particularly of nature topics and her kids, Joe and Francesca. In 2007, several years after she moved to Charlotte, she and her son have been in a book shop after they spotted a postcard with a photograph of the Weavers, the people institution whose members covered Pete Seeger and Ronnie Gilbert.

“The postcard said, ‘Photographer unknown,’ and that pissed her off,” Mr. Meyer said. Ms. Handelman Meyer had taken the photo and others as exposure for the institution and for an early album cowl.

“I stated, ‘Do you want me to do something positive about this?’” Mr. Meyer recalled asking his mother.

“She said, ‘Whatever.’”

Mr. Meyer wrote to the cardboard business enterprise, which replied with a letter of apology and a container of the cards, nonetheless with out a credit score for her image. More vital, her son took some of her prints to the Hodges Taylor gallery in Charlotte.

It become the begin of her creative renaissance, at age 87.

When she turned into advised that her work would be the situation of an exhibition, Mr. Meyer stated, “she clutched her coronary heart."

Carolyn DeMeritt, a photographer who curated the gallery’s 2007 exhibition, “Into the Light,” stated that as she sifted via the negatives that Ms. Handelman Meyer had preserved in bins, she became amazed to peer that she had now not taken a couple of or images of any situation.

“She turned into just an unobtrusive presence, this small, younger, nonthreatening girl, wandering everywhere in the city, taking her shots and shifting on,” Ms. DeMeritt stated in a cellphone interview. “I became amazed at what number of remarkable pics there have been.”

She brought, “When we priced her photos at $500 each, she idea now not a soul could buy them for that exorbitant amount of cash, but we offered so lots of them.”

Her pictures have considering that been exhibited inside the United States, Germany and Poland and are inside the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum in New York, the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, which confirmed her paintings in a 2013 exhibition, “Bearing Witness: The New York Photo League and Sonia Handelman Meyer.”

In addition to her son, Joe, she is survived by her daughter, Francesca Fortson, four grandchildren and 8 top notch-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1997.

Ms. Handelman Meyer had a specific affinity for youngsters. In certainly one of her pix, five kids played in a vacant lot in Spanish Harlem with not anything however rubble round them. Two boys are standing up — looking at some thing or a person unseen — on either aspect of 3 different children kneeling on the floor.

She took greater snap shots of youngsters than different Photo League individuals, she instructed The Observer, due to the fact they are “the maximum vulnerable, most stunning.”

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Funeral date

Jan 01 2022, 12:00