NYC-ARTS

S2020 E489 | CLIP

NYC-ARTS Choice: Madame d'Ora

A visit to Neue Galerie to learn about the career of Madame d’Ora, an Austrian photographer whose work captured both the glamor and the darkness of her lifetime.

AIRED: April 16, 2020 | 0:07:32
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TRANSCRIPT

>> Next we visit the

Neue Galerie on East 86th Street

for a look at the work of the

Austrian photographer known as

Madame d'Ora.

It is the largest exhibition of

its kind ever presented in the

United States.

Born in 1881 to a wealthy Jewish

family, Dora Kallmus became one

of the premier photographers of

her day and was the first woman

to open her own photography

studio in Vienna.

The exhibition follows her

career from Vienna to Paris,

from her time as a dazzling

high-society portraitist to her

somber career after the

devastation of World War II.

Madame d'Ora captured the

glamour, creativity, darkness,

and upheaval of her lifetime.

♪♪

>> Madame d'Ora was an

incredible woman.

She opened her studio in Vienna

in 1906 and stopped

photographing in 1957.

So we have 50 years covered by

photographs.

d'Ora took photographs of many

of the artists that have been

shown here in the Neue Galerie,

like Gustav Klimt, who was the

first painter she would

photographed in 1907.

By the way, the last painter she

photographed was Picasso in

1955, so we have have quite a

range here.

This is the first monographic

exhibition dedicated to a woman

here.

So, it's about her being a woman

and being so successful as a

photographer.

Her aim was to adapt amateur

photography, which had come up

only 10 years ago, to

professional photography.

So, she tried very much that in

her studio people would feel at

ease, would feel at home.

Soon she became well known for

the fact that she made people

much more beautiful than they

would see themselves in the

mirror.

And this most probably is

because that even high

aristocracy would turn

to her studio.

These high aristocrats tended

to have very many children, so

it was difficult to make an

original group photograph.

We have one photograph with the

archduke, with the daughters,

I think five around him.

She was a very clever woman, and

she was also a very good

businesswoman.

Already in the portraits and in

the later years of the

First World War, you can see the

worry of a world falling into

pieces.

You can see this in these

fashion shots that seem a little

eerie because, you know, in

1916, things were already very

bad.

But in Vienna, one tried to keep

a touch of normality.

But by the end of the war,

all this was gone.

So she decided to move to Paris,

where she thought things would

be easier for her.

You could say she is the

inventor of a very successful

idea.

You have a well-known actor.

You have a well-known fashion

house.

You have a well-known

photographer.

And this image you can sell

easily to the illustrated press.

And this is a recipe that

still works.

And she did this in Paris.

You can see in this exhibition

that she had dresses by Patou

worn by Josephine Baker, which,

of course, would be much more

fun than a Patou dress just by

an unknown model girl.

It's difficult to imagine today,

but hats were the most important

thing for a woman.

So you would buy the hat before

you buy the dress.

There are hundreds of hat

photographs by d'Ora, but of

course they were fashion

photographs and used in the

magazines.

And to stress the fact of the

importance of the hat

photographs, Renée Price had

contemporary artists come in and

make new hats inspired by the

creations that d'Ora

photographed.

♪♪

Dora Kallmus was Jewish.

She was endangered in Paris.

When the Nazis came in, in 1940,

she was in hiding in a small

village in southern France.

She waited for the arrival of

her sister, who was still in

Austria at that time.

And this turned out to be a

disaster.

The sister never could leave

Austria and died in a

concentration camp.

In 1945, she went back to Paris.

She had to start completely

anew.

She was over 65 at this time.

What was her aim?

After the Second World War was

just work she did in refugee

camps.

She did not only cover survivors

of the concentration camps, but

also old German ladies who had

been de-placed and women with

little children who evidently

have no future in front of them

but to stay in these camps.

And the other very important

work for her was to go to

slaughterhouses and to take

photographs there.

Already in her diaries in the

1940s, she compared the fate of

Jewish people in Europe with the

fate of animals in a

slaughterhouse.

They had no choice.

They only can wait to be killed.

She had her clients, the same

clients she used to have in the

'20s and '30s.

I think so fascinating in her

late portraits is that, you

know, she always used to set

people out at their best.

And now suddenly she's

confronted with old people,

old as she was herself.

And this specific photograph of

Colette is one of the last that

was taken of her shortly before

her death, evidently feeble

and very old.

And you have the impression that

this is an incredible woman.

What you can see in in the work

of Madame d'Ora is a kind of

mirror of the changing culture

in Austria and France during the

20th century, from the

aristocratic public around the

turn of the century towards the

fancy artists and fashion world

of the 1920s and '30s to a

complete change of attitude

after the Second World War.

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