art, Avant-garde, culture, Ghetto, Illustrations, Ismar David calligraphy, Israel, Jewish Publication Society of America, Jewish Publishing Society, Judaica, Lithuania, Moi-Ver, Moshe Raviv-Vorobeichic author, Paris, PARIS book title, photo book, photography, Tales in Praise of the ARI book title, Vilnius
One of the hardest to find 20th Century seminal photo books is one by Moshe Raviv-Vorobeichic titled PARIS, published in 1931 by Editions Jeanne Walter in Paris, France in an edition of 1000 copies. Here are the two pages dedicated to this edition in the bibliographic photo book catalog The Open Book published by the Hasselblad Center:
Moshe Vorobeichic (1904-1995), pictured above, was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. He published his photographic work under the artist name of Moi-Ver and produced an extraordinary book incorporating new photo techniques and different photographic viewpoints for his photographs. The book titled PARIS (shown above) became an avant garde icon and an ode to the city of Paris.
Moi-ver had previously worked on another photo reportage in the form of a book that actually appeared before the Paris book. This small size photobook was published in 1931 titled Wilna , ein ghetto im Osten (A ghetto in the East).
The book is a photo reportage on the life of the Jewish inhabitants of Vilnius (Wilna) in Lithuania where Jews as in many ( East) European towns had lived in the Jewish quarters (the Ghetto) of the old town for centuries. The book was simultaneously published in several editions a German-Yiddish version, a German-Hebrew version and an English-Hebrew version and below are two links to tell you more about the various editions. Interesting is the fact that the book, the 27th in a series was printed in Switzerland by the Orell Fuesli Verlag
Here you can see the entire range in the series.
If you would like read all about the Ghetto book, in particular, here is a link with pictures to another superb site.
(Parr/Badger, The Photobook) comments as follows on the book:
“ The book, with both Hebrew and German text, featured his photographic record of the Jewish ghetto in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, documenting a way of life that would soon disappear under terrible circumstances. Even more so than Paris, Ein Ghetto im Osten was ostensibly a documentary book, but as he had done in his view of the French city, Moï Ver could not resist pushing the envelope of the documentary form. Once again, he used a variety of New Vision strategies, the most obvious being to take many images from upstairs windows looking on to the narrow streets of Vilnius’s old Jewish quarter. This creates odd angles and a dynamic mise en scène for his pictures of people going about their everyday business on the street…But Moï Ver didn’t stop there. He also introduced cinematic cutting and montaging techniques to heighten the interest… A poignancy has been added [to Ein Ghetto im Osten] in hindsight: it was made at the beginning of a desperately traumatic time for European Jewry” .
In 1932 Moi-Ver was asked to visit Palestine to do a photo essay for the French magazine VU. Here is a link to a page describing some of the VU magazine issues from our friends at Studio Montespecchio in Italy.
A short artist biography is in order at this point:
In 1934 Moshe Verobeichic born in Wilna or Vilnius as a Jew decided that the Zionist cause to settle the land of Eretz Israel was a worthwhile cause and moved to Israel where he would live for the rest of his live. He adapted the Hebrew version of his name, from Moshe Vorobeichic and Moi-Ver to Raviv and everything he designed carries that signature. In the mid-twenties he studied at the Bauhaus in Germany and underwent the influence of the painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Much of his later artistic work in Israel was done by illustrating, drawing as well as painting. In the early 1950’s an artist colony, of which he was one of the founders, was established in the millennium old town of Safed.
Here is one of the books Moshe Raviv illustrated titled Tales in Praise of the ARI published by the Jewish Publication Society of America in 1970.
This brings us to the circle of acquaintances of Moshe Raviv. One is the fellow Jewish artist Ismar David, an important book illustrator and type designer who designed several Hebrew alphabets like the one on the flyleaf of the book above and who excelled in calligraphy. The lettering on the front cover is but an example. The back cover of the book has the initials JPS intertwined, those are the initials for the Jewish Publishing Society.
Every new paragraph in the book has an initial done by Ismar David as well. The entire book is a superb example of artist collaboration who shared similar experiences in life and a common religious background. The duotone plates in the book are sepia tone drawings on white paper and speak of a very developed drawing skill by Moshe. The cloth binding is by Ismar David. Here are some illustrations from the book:
For more on other book jackets designed by Ismar David follow the link here.
Misha Beletsky is the author of a recent book on the book jackets of Ismar David, as well as a graphic designer himself. More on the book at the publishers site.
Ismar David’s work is also covered in an older (2005) and more comprehensive book by author Helen Brandshaft published by the same publisher.
The best reference site for work by Ismar David in my opinion is here.
I have recently seen a You tube video about the life and work of Moshe Vorobeichic posted by Helen Raviv but it is entirely in the Hebrew language unfortunately.