The Charlotte Jewish news. (Charlotte, N.C.) 19??-current, September 01, 2012, Image 18
The Charlotte Jewish News - September 2012 - Page 18 Communitv Mews Still Exhibiting Photos from the Legendary “Photo League,” Sonia Handelman Meyer Resides in Charlotte By Amy Krakovitz You would never guess that Sonia Handelman Meyer is in her early 90s. Her energy and elarity defy the stereotypes. She has defied stereotypes her whole life, in faet. During World War II she worked, in Puerto Rieo, for the US Army Signal Corps. While there she met a photogra pher who told her about The Photo League, a New York eity organiza tion that held elasses, workshops, leetures, and exhibits in the field of photography. But not just any kind of photography. The infiu- enee of Sid Grossman, one of The Photo League’s founders, led Meyer and her eolleagues to doeu- mentary photography. Just prior to World War II, dur ing the Great Depression, Grossman felt a need to reeord the suffering evident in New York City. Even after the war, when Meyer joined The Photo League, Grossman’s inspiration eaused her to “dedieate herself to soeial doeu- mentary, taking photographs of loeal neighborhoods and their eiti- zens with a keen and sympathetie eye for the human eondition,” says DTCKHNS A i' S O C J A T E S MITCHENER $620,000 928 Jefferson Drive Built in 2007, this home was designed for casual living and entertainment with great attention to detail. Custom millwork throughout, 10 ft. ceilings down, 9 ft. ceilings up and 5 in. heart of pine floors. Gourmet kitchen with SS appliances, granite counter tops, and a center island all open to the family room. All 4 bedrooms have private baths. Rec room is upstairs. Don’t miss this opportunity! Heather Mackey Realtor/Broker Dickens Mitchener and Associates 704-661-0635 cell email@example.com Offering Residential Real Estate Service Since 1991 704.342.1000 ^ DICKENSMITCHENER.COM Lili Corbus, a Charlotte art histori an who wrote about Meyer for a book, “Into the Light,” the catalog for a 2007 exhibit of The Photo League at Hodges Taylor Gallery in Charlotte. The Photo League was more than just a place for photographers to gather. “I took eye-heart-soul opening workshops with Grossman,” says Meyer. And not just workshops, but lectures, classes, and exhibits. Over the course of 15 years. The Photo League and its team of photogra phers became a force to be reck oned with. “Many of Meyer’s photographs and street scenes of immigrants, minorities, and children, whether in Harlem, the Village, or Brooklyn, accent the humanity and dignity of those facing eco nomic adversity,” says Corbus. “Subjects without means endure, persevere, and survive, despite the odds. Poor children play and laugh; they find spaces of joy. Her children exist on their own terms .... They are not merely ‘cute,’ as they eke out their lives in the midst of towering tenements and poverty.” Meyer herself describes one assignment in “Into the Light.” “... I volunteered to take stills at Sydenham Hospital in Harlem for a fund raising film.” The photos were also used in promotional materials for the hospital, an insti tution that treated 60% of its patients without charge. Meyer also photographed the crowd at an anti-lynching rally in Madison Square, as well as scenes in Spanish Harlem, the Hebrew ”1 switched, you can too! To an independent insurance agency with more choices, expert advice, better service and where the focus is on you! Mike Littauer Principal 704-970-3858 firstname.lastname@example.org 1115 East Morehead Street Suite 208 Charlotte, NC 28204 www.charlotteinsurancesolutions.com CHARLOTTE INSURANCE SOLUTIONS Auto - Home - Business - Life > Immigrant Aid Society, a Jehovah’s Witness convention at Yankee Stadium, and the first pub licity stills for Pete Seeger’s band. The Weavers. Such was the mis sion of the photographers of The Photo League. The Photo League itself met its unfortunate end at the hands of the federal government, the House Un-American Activities Committee. The league was put on a list of subversive groups. “There was absolutely nothing subversive going on,” Meyer insists. “During the 1930s, some of the members took pictures of Communist rallies and sympa thized with their cause. At the time, they were one of the few groups that helped people find food, shelter, and protection. “But there was never any pros elytizing or influencing the rest of us. All anyone ever insisted on was meaningful photography. “[But] it got to be too much. People were being blacklisted. There were photographers who couldn’t get passports to work overseas. Little by little, [The Photo League] dissolved. “It’s tragic, because there’s never been another organization like it.” After the demise of The Photo League, Sonia started a family and continued her photography, though not professionally. That unique time in her life was over, or at least she thought so. Fast for ward to 1978, when an exhibit, “This Was The Photo League,” was opened at the International Center of Photography. Three of Meyer’s photos were included. After that, there was no serious attention paid to Meyer’s photos until she moved here in 2002. By a happy coincidence, Charlotte is home to a historian of The Photo League, the aforementioned Lili Corbus. Once Corbus and Meyer found one another, Meyer’s photo graphs were once again brought out “into the light.” Corbus assigned a student of hers, Amanda Connolly, to assist Meyer in archiving Meyer’s work. Her son, Joe Meyer, was a devoted publicist for her work. In 2007, Hodges Taylor Gallery featured Meyer’s work in an Photo taken outside Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Reprinted courtesy of Hodges Taylor Gallery and Sonia Handelman Meyer exhibit titled “Into the Light.” Some of Meyer’s work can still be viewed at the gallery at 401 N. Tryon St., from 1-7 PM, and at their new location, 118 E. Kingston Ave. Call 704-334-3799 for more information. A recent exhibit of The Photo League, including three of Meyer’s photographs, was seen at the Jewish Museum in New York City. This exhibit, “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951,” is traveling this year to Columbus, OH, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach, FL. “After so many years of being in the shadows, you can imagine my pleasure ... to have my photo graphs out of the boxes and onto the walls where they can be seen, thought about, and enjoyed,” says Meyer. The impact of the exhibit was amazing, she says. In NY, the exhibition received rave reviews. “And my daughter and grandchil dren were struck dumb when they entered the museum in Columbus. They had no idea that the work I had done had been so important.” “We’re so fortunate to have this treasure living among us in Charlotte,” says Meyer’s friend, Sheila Kasten. For now Meyer is content to relax in her retirement years. She has traveled to the exhibits in New York and Columbus and is still debating whether to attend the one in San Francisco. But for the rest of us, her photos can be seen on occasion by appointment at Hodges Taylor Gallery’s two loca tions (704-334-3799), in the sev eral catalogues published in con junction with her major exhibits, and on her website, www.sonia- handelmanmeyer.com. ^ Sonia reviews her photographs for the Sydenham Hospital fundraiser in the mid-1940s. Sonia today in her apart ment with one of her more iconic photographs. \ Photo courtesy The Charlotte Jewish News.