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.

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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.