Steven Weiss Samols
Photobooks as Jewish History: German-speaking Jews, Images, and the Transatlantic Construction of a Common Past.
Steven Weiss Samols is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Southern California. His research explores the intersection of Visual Studies and Cultural History. Steven holds a MSc. in European Studies from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in History from New York University.
Steven’s dissertation is titled “Photobooks as Jewish History: German-speaking Jews, Images, and the Transatlantic Construction of a Common Past.” His work identifies the photobook as a unique artefact at the center of how collective visions of acculturation, forced mobility, persecution, Zionism, and memory took shape across the Atlantic over the second half of the twentieth century. Each chapter details the networks behind the creation, publication, and dissemination of a photobook from the immediate postwar to the late 1970s.
The dissertation demonstrates the importance of images—especially photographic narratives—to the construction of contemporary Jewish history. While showing seemingly disparate stories such as the atrocities of the Holocaust, the founding of Israel, or the intimacy of Sigmund Freud’s apartment, the photobooks together produced a durable and accessible visual language of a coherent, Jewish twentieth century story. German-speaking Jewish image makers organized the global networks that brought photobooks into the homes of people across Europe and North America. The pictures and stories from those photobooks created a familiar, visual fabric. This fabric in turn informed other media, popularized and reproduced through museums, films and scholarship. In these ways, photobooks forged a common Jewish past through pictures.