Alfons Himmelreich, Tel Aviv Modernist

Photographer Alfons Himmelreich found beauty in all aspects of modern Israel: industry, agriculture, dance and night in the newly built city of Tel Aviv.

Modernism lives on in the work of Alfons Himmelreich, photographer in a new exhibition at the Pressler Private Museum in Tel Aviv. Himmelreich who was born in Munich in 1904, began his photographic career at age 13, along with his studies in drawing, art history and  textile engineering — which was the family business. With the rise of Nazism, Himmelreich emigrated to the pre-State Land of Israel where he began photographing Tel Aviv’s burgeoning modern dance scene.

In 1941 opened his own photography studio on Allenby Street where he specialized in industrial photography influenced by the Bauhaus style. This photograph of a screw threaded against the White City’s skyline is a wonderful example of finding beauty in manufactured creation.

The photo of the bolt was used on cover of the Foreign Trade Institute’s “Machinery and Technical Supplies Made in Palestine” catalog from 1942. But there is more to the story. Five years later it was used again on the cover of the magazine HaTa’assia (The Industry), juxtaposed against a piece of fencing in protest against the British curfews on Tel Aviv.

Himmelreich continued to work artistically as well and produced a series of Tel Aviv night photos that were influenced by the work of Jewish-German painter Lesser Ury, according to exhibition curator Kobi Carmi.

“Himmelreich’s wonderful night photos express the play of light against the dark of night. The car headlights express the loneliness of man and his fear of the night… Himmelreich brings his imagery of European cities, like Munich and Berlin, to a growing Tel Aviv. His need to seek out a connection with the world he left behind stemmed, perhaps, from a need to aid his absorption in Israel.”

The exhibition also presents photographs of architecture, advertising and industry that emphasized the growing strength of the country Himmelreich loved.

Photo Studio A. Himmelreich is on view at the Pressler Private Museum, 54 Wolfson St., Tel Aviv. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

About Rachel Neiman

A veteran media professional who has lived in Israel since 1984, Rachel has been part of the ISRAEL21c organization since 2008. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Globes Online, the English-language edition of Israel’s leading business daily, and before that, at The Jerusalem Post, as a business reporter, feature writer, and consumer columnist. Rachel began writing about Israeli technology companies at LINK Israel’s Business and Technology Magazine and is a professional Hebrew to English translator. In her spare time, she is an active member of the Havurat Tel Aviv congregation, and the Holyland Hash House Harriers, part of an international running and drinking disorganization.