Erwin Blumenfeld was an American photographer of German origin. He was born in Berlin, and in 1941 emigrated to the United States, where he soon became a successful and well-paid fashion photographer, working as a free-lancer for Harper’s Bazaar, Life and American Vogue. His personal photographic work showed the influence of Dadaism and Surrealism; his two main areas of interest were death and women. He was expert in laboratory work, and experimented with photographic techniques such as distortion, multiple exposure, photo-montage and solarisation.
Blumenfeld was born in Berlin on 26 January 1897. As a young man he worked in the clothes trade and wrote poetry. In 1918 he went to Amsterdam, where he came into contact with Paul Citroen and Georg Grosz. In 1933 he made a photomontage showing Hitler as a skull with a swastika on its forehead; this image was later used in Allied propaganda material in 1943.
He married Lena Citroen, with whom he had three children, in 1921. In 1922 he started a leather goods shop, which failed in 1935. He moved to Paris, where in 1936 he set up as a photographer and did free-lance work for French Vogue. After the outbreak of the Second World War he was placed in an internment camp; in 1941 he was able to emigrate to the United States. There he soon became a successful and well-paid fashion photographer, and worked as a free-lancer for Harper’s Bazaar, Life and American Vogue.
Blumenfeld died in Rome on 4 July 1969.
Blumenfeld started working on Blumenfeld: Meine 100 Besten Fotos in 1955; it was eventually published in 1979; an English translation, Blumenfeld: My One Hundred Best Photos, was published in New York in 1981. Another autobiographical work was published in German as Einbildungsroman by Eichborn Verlagin 1998, and in English as Eye to I: The Autobiography of a Photographer by Thames and Hudson in 1999.