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Josef Breitenbach miscellaneous acquisitions collection

Identifier: AG 167

Scope and Contents

The Josef Breitenbach miscellaneous acquisitions collection contains various papers, publications, audiovisual materials, and photographic materials related to the life and career of Josef Breitenbach (1896-1984). There are also facsimiles and scans made by the Center for Creative Photography for an exhibition of Breitenbach’s work.

Subgroup 1, Correspondence and biographical materials, contains correspondence related to the Breitenbach estate, donation correspondence, and legal correspondence. Also included are materials related to Yaye Togasaki Breitenbach, research materials, and the Leica Medal of Excellence awarded to Josef Breitenbach.

Subgroup 2, Exhibitions, clippings, and photographic materials, contains material related to exhibitions, a speech delivered by Peter C. Jones for the opening of a Breitenbach exhibition, periodicals and clippings related to Breitenbach, research materials about Galerie Bodo Nieman, and photographic materials documenting a retrospective exhibition in Munich in 1996.

Subgroup 3, Audiovisual and oversized materials, includes book layouts, audio cassette tapes, and CDs with Breitenbach images.

Subgroup 4, Facsimiles, facsimiles made by CCP staff of Josef Breitenbach archive materials and a list of these facsimiles, loaned to Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris, 2005; Josef Breitenbach Visages de L’Exil.

Subgroup 5, Scans, contains high resolution scans made from original Breitenbach negatives by CCP staff, to create contact sheets or enlarged to create photographs, and which were loaned to and exhibited by Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris, 2005; Josef Breitenbach Visages de L’Exil.

Subgroup 6, Publications, contains publications and similar materials using Breitenbach images, monographs, periodicals, catalogues, publishers catalogues, and calendars.

Subgroup 7, Exhibition files and photographic materials, contains exhibition files and photographic materials in the form of prints, negatives, and slides.

Subgroup 8, Women of Asia, contains photographic materials from Breitenbach’s Women of Asia project.


  • 1942-2008


Language of Materials

Material in English

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to Josef Breitenbach's papers and photographs is held by the Josef Breitenbach Trust. Permissions for specific use should be sought from the Trust.

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Josef Breitenbach was born in Munich, Germany in 1896. He attended schools in Munich and served in the military in 1916. He eventually joined his father’s wine merchant business in 1919. Two school notebooks and early portraits are the extent of the documentation of this early period of Breitenbach’s life. It is known that he traveled with the wine business, and early photographs and negatives of Italy and France were probably made by Breitenbach during those trips.

When the wine business went bankrupt in 1932, Breitenbach opened a portrait studio and began photographing the City Theater in Munich. Many photographs and negatives of German theater personalities including photographs of Karl Valentin and Albert Basserman exist from this year. Again, little documentation other than photographs and negatives exist from this time.

In September 1933, Breitenbach left Munich with his son Hans and settled in Paris. He established a portrait studio and began teaching photography. Documentation of the Paris years, 1933-1941, is rich and varied. Documentation exists as correspondence, exhibition announcements, writings, notebooks, teaching materials, identity cards, rent statements, and photographic materials. Exhibition announcements, correspondence, and tearsheets show that his photographs were exhibited and reproduced in Paris as well as other countries. As a correspondent for the British International News Agency, Breitenbach wrote about and photographed the following important exhibitions in Paris: [Freie] Deutsche Buch, 1936 (Free German Books); The Paris International Exposition, 1937; 5 ans de régime hitlérien, (Five Years of the Hitler Regime), 1938; The International Surrealism Exhibition, 1938; and [Freie] Deutsche Kunst (Free German Art), 1938.

As a member of the German expatriate community in Paris, Breitenbach photographed Helene Weigel and Bertolt Brecht, and the rehearsals for a Brecht play in 1938. He also photographed Max Ernst, Lyonel Feininger, and others. In addition, Breitenbach photographed panels for a planned exhibition for the Freedom Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1939, "The Germany of Yesterday, The Germany of Tomorrow."

In 1938 Germany revoked his citizenship. When Germany invaded France during W.W.II, Breitenbach was interned as an enemy alien in various camps. The archive documents with writings, correspondence, identity cards and other materials his time in the work camps, and his efforts to leave France. He successfully immigrated to the United States in 1941.

Josef Breitenbach established himself as a photographer and teacher in New York City in 1941. He lived there until his death in 1984. He used the English version of his name, Joseph, extensively after this period. He began to receive commercial assignments from magazines such as Fortune, Harper’s Bazaar, and Time.

Breitenbach’s long career as a teacher began in 1944 with an appointment to Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. Although Breitenbach was hired by Josef Albers for only that summer, his photographs extensively document the buildings, students, teaching methods of Josef Albers and others at Black Mountain College and were used in subsequent brochures for the college. In 1946 he began teaching at Cooper Union and in 1949 at the New School for Social Research, both in New York City. Correspondence, lecture notes, and audio tapes of his lectures richly document his career as a teacher. During this period, Breitenbach collected photographs to supplement his lectures in photography. In 1979 his photograph collection was sold to the Müncher Stadtmuseum in Munich, Germany. No photographs from his teaching collection exist in his archive.

From 1952-53, Josef Breitenbach served as the Chief of Still Photography for the United Nations Reconstruction Agency in Korea. Those years served as Breitenbach’s introduction to Korea and Japan. Each year until the 1970s he worked on commercial projects in Asia to finance his travel and personal photographic work. Although his photographs were exhibited and reproduced in periodicals, Women of Asia (1968) was the only monograph published from this large body of work. Josef Breitenbach died in New York City in 1984.


Josef Breitenbach born 3 April, Munich, Germany.
Serves in German army in World War I.
Breitenbach marries Paula, a childhood friend (divorced 1926). Son, Hans Wolf Breitenbach, born in Nuremberg, Germany, 8 August.
Travels extensively with family wine merchant business; begins regularly photographing places he visits.
Travels to Paris and photographs Eiffel tower and gargoyles of Notre Dame; meets Ruth Snowman who studies photography with Breitenbach beginning in 1934.
Closes family wine business and opens portrait studio in Munich; caters to prominent actors of Munich Theater.
Stores his possessions and leaves Munich; settles in Paris with Hans. Awarded bronze medal at the Exposition internationale de Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland (October); exhibits in Paris at 28. Salon international de la photographie (October) and Librairie Lipschutz (November).
Begins teaching German language photography courses that include: Photography as Art, Optics and Form, Light and Lighting, Color, Modern Materials and Alternative Processes, and Chemistry. Has two exhibitions at the Galerie de la Pléiade, Paris, Joseph Breitenbach: Portraits, paysages, théâtre, a solo exhibition (June) and Groupe annuel des photographes (November); also exhibits at the 29. Salon international de la photographie (October).
Solo exhibition at the Galerie Fernand Nathan, Paris, Exposition de photographies: Portraits, scènes et paysages de Joseph Breitenbach (February); has group exhibitions at the Galerie de la Pléiade, Paris, L'humour et le fantastique par la photographie, Paris, (March) and in London at the London Salon of Photography.
Hans leaves Paris for London (September) and studies electrical engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. Breitenbach works as a Paris contributor for the British International News Agency, London (through 1939); Ruth Snowman is his contact in London. Exhibition at The Louvre, Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris.
Photographs included in the Derde Internationale >>Focus Fotosalon, Amsterdam (September); photographs odors with Professor Henri Devaux (June).
Exhibits odors photographs at the Royal Photographic Society; elected to membership in the Société Française de Photographie et de Cinématographie, Paris.
Elected as Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, London, England (July); interned in work camp (September).
Released from work camp (May); sponsored for immigration to the United States by Anne Henschel, Ruth Snowman's aunt. Sails from Marseille, France (May) on the ship the S.S. Winnipeg to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad; sails from Trinidad to New York City 19 June on the S.S. Acadia and arrives in New York 27 June. Hans Breitenbach marries (July).
Begins U.S. career of commercial photography work for various magazines including Fortune, Collier's, Town and Country, Time, and many others; applies for John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for further aroma studies on film.
Lectures on photography and makes photographs of faculty and students at Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida; teaches and photographs at Black Mountain College Summer Art Institute (17 July-5 August) with Josef Albers and others. Photographs included in group exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery, New York (June).
Photographs production of Bertolt Brecht's play The Private Life of the Master Race, New York (June); awarded membership in Kappa Pi Honorary Art Fraternity.
Becomes U.S. citizen; begins teaching at Cooper Union, New York (retires 1966). Group exhibition with the Art Alliance, Philadelphia (March). "Creative Photography" published in The Sketch Book, a publication of the Kappa Pi.
Exhibitions in Lakeland, Florida, Florida Southern College (January), and in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Directors Show, 26th Annual National Exhibition of Advertising and Editorial Art (April).
circa 1948
Solo exhibition in New York at the A-D Gallery (19 April-14 May).
Begins teaching at New School for Social Research, New York City (retires 1975); exhibits with the Art Alliance in Philadelphia (April) and in New York with the Exhibition of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (ASMP); lectures at The Camera Club, New York, "New Trails in Photography."
Has solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, Pictorial Photographs by Joseph Breitenbach (June), at the Brooklyn Museum, Portraits and Landscapes by Joseph Breitenbach (October), and a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (May).
Included in group exhibitions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Cambridge (February), at the Brooklyn Museum (September), and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in May and November. American Fabrics publishes Breitenbach article, "Photographic Textile Designs." He lectures at Manhattan Camera Club, New York, "New Ways in Photography" (May).
Exhibits with the World Exhibition of Photography, Lucerne, Switzerland; Gentry magazine publishes article, "How Realistic Is Photography?" (spring); lectures at Pictorial Photographers of America, New York, "New Ways in Photography" (February).
Chief of still photography, United Nations Reconstruction Agency, Korea; also travels in Japan.
Solo exhibition at the opening of the Limelight Gallery, New York, Korea (14 May-30 June); slide lectures in New York at the New School, "The Face of Korea" (March) and at Columbia University, "The People of Korea" (October).
Included in the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition, The Family of Man (26 January-8 May).
Commercial photography assignments in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), IBM, AT&T, American Red Cross, Time/Life, and many others.
Group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (November); Breitenbach photographs used in book by Don Faris, To Plow With Hope.
Group exhibitions at Jacksonville Art Museum, Jacksonville, Florida, [organized by] The American Society of Magazine Photographers (March), the Newark Museum, (April), and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Photography in the Fine Arts II (May).
Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photography in the Fine Arts III (October); solo exhibition in Orono, Maine, University of Maine, Korea: Photographs by Joseph Breitenbach (November).
Group exhibitions in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts, Photography in the Fine Arts IV (May) and in Hamburg, Germany, World Exhibition of Photography (July).
Solo exhibition of 250 photographs in Munich, Germany, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Wanderung (September); group exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (March).
Group exhibition about Black Mountain College in Johnson City, Tennessee, East Tennessee State University, Carol Reece Museum (April).
Slide lecture at the New York Public Library, "Color in Photography and Painting" (March).
Women of Asia, a Breitenbach book of photographs is published; hospitalized with stomach ulcer (November).
Lectures at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on "Color in Life and Art" (March).
Solo exhibition in Hanover, New Hampshire at Dartmouth College, Hopkins Center Art Galleries (21 October-28 November); slide lecture at Dartmouth College.
Lectures at New York University, "Photographic Journey Through Time" (March).
Solo exhibition at Goethe House New York, Fifty Photos by Josef Breitenbach (27 November-21 December).
Seven Portraits, a portfolio of Breitenbach photographs, is published by Graphics International with an introduction by A. Hyatt Mayor; exhibition at Asia House Gallery, New York (July).
Photographs from Breitenbach's collection are shown in Munich, Germany at the Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Die Sammlung Josef Breitenbach-Geschichte der Photographie (20 July-9 September). The Münchner Stadtmuseum purchases the Breitenbach collection of photographs.
Marries Yaye Togasaki 25 January.
Solo exhibition in Munich, Germany, at the Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Die Stiftung Josef Breitenbach (29 September-16 October); "Josef Breitenbach. Ten Portraits" is included in the publication The Paris Review.
Dies 7 October in New York City.


5.5 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Miscellaneous papers and photographic materials, 1942-2008, relating to the career of Josef Breitenbach (1896-1984), photographer. Includes correspondence, research materials, exhibition announcements, clippings, publications, and photographic materials.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Subgroup 1: Correspondence and biographical materials, n.d., 1942-2002, 1 box
  2. Subgroup 2: Exhibitions, clippings, and photographic materials, n.d., 1987-2008, 1 box
  3. Subgroup 3: Audiovisual and oversized materials, n.d., 1986, 1 box
  4. Subgroup 4: Facsimiles, n.d., 2005, 1 box
  5. Subgroup 5: Scans, n.d., 2005, 1 box
  6. Subgroup 6: Publications, n.d., 1953-2001, 2 boxes
  7. Subgroup 7: Exhibition files and photographic materials, n.d., 1 box
  8. Subgroup 8: Women of Asia, 1963-1968, 1 box

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Material in this collection was donated to the Center by a variety of different sources. Subgroups 2, 3, 6, 7 are a gift of Peter C. Jones, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012. Subgroup 7 is a gift of the Yaye and Josef Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, 2010, 2012. Subgroup 8 is a gift of Stacy L. Waldman, 2013.


Additions to this collection have been made between the years 1998-2012.

Related Materials

AG 90, Josef Breitenbach archive.

Processing Information

Finding aid was updated by Tai Huesgen in 2019 and again in 2020.

Josef Breitenbach miscellaneous acquisitions collection 1942-2008
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2020
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
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Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States