Dis/placed Modernism: Ellen Auerbach and Marianne Breslauer’s Palestine


  • Camilla Balbi Photography Research Center, Czech Academy of Sciences

Parole chiave:

Ellen Auerbach, Marianne Breslauer, Weimar Photography, Exile, Palestine


This paper addresses geographical displacement, elsewhereness, as a fundamental experience in early twentieth-century culture. It examines its aesthetic and epistemological consequences within the specific context of German-Jewish women's photography in pre-state Israel during the 1930s. The article focuses on photographs taken during the Palestine sojourns of two prominent photographers from the Weimar Republic: Marianne Breslauer and Ellen Auerbach. The two moved not only through geographical places, but also across intersecting imaginaries, ethno-religious and gender identities, on the margins of discourses and political systems: as women, as Jews, and as photographers. The article explores these balances at a delicate historical juncture: when a distant spiritual homeland slowly becomes a complex territory for a very complicated immigration, and travel photography turns into exile photography. The resulting photographs exist within a dynamic interplay between ancient collective memories of the “Land of the Bible”, and the modernist iconographies associated with Zionist nation-building; the enchanted gaze towards the Arab East; and a German training altered by displacement. Lastly, from a theoretical perspective, the study considers how the displacement of the two photographers partially decentered their modernist background, expanding the dimensions of the modernist canon to include nomadism, memory, and longing.

Biografia autore

Camilla Balbi, Photography Research Center, Czech Academy of Sciences

Camilla Balbi is a post-doctoral researcher at the Photography Research Center, in the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, in Prague. She obtained a PhD in Visual and Media Studies at IULM University in Milan (2023); and was a Visiting Scholar at NYU’s Department of German Studies in 2020/2021. Camilla is interested in the intersections between media practices and artistic languages, and her main research interests include early twentieth-century German-Jewish art theory and theory of photography; studies of reception and imagery related to the reproduced image. Alongside these interests, she writes and works on political art and eccentric visual cultures, working on the specificities of the Jewish gaze and the female and queer gaze.




Come citare

Balbi, C. (2023). Dis/placed Modernism: Ellen Auerbach and Marianne Breslauer’s Palestine. Elephant & Castle, (30), 173–182. Recuperato da https://elephantandcastle.unibg.it/index.php/eac/article/view/458