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Lorant (Stefan) collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement note
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Separated Materials
  • Related Material
  • Processing History
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Access

  • Contributing Institution: Special Collections
    Title: Stefan Lorant collection
    Creator: Sille, Heinrich
    Creator: Sidey, Hugh
    Creator: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin--Preussischer Kulturbesitz
    Creator: Simon and Schuster, Inc
    Creator: Salomon, Erich
    Creator: Rosenblum, Naomi
    Creator: Shirer, William L. (William Lawrence), 1904-1993
    Creator: Sander, August
    Creator: Prudden, Bonnie, 1914-2011
    Creator: Rockwell, Norm (Norman)
    Creator: Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
    Creator: Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-1993
    Creator: Neutra, Richard Joseph, 1892-1970
    Creator: Riefenstahl, Leni
    Creator: Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
    Creator: Washington National Records Center (U.S.)
    Creator: Süddeutscher Verlag
    Creator: Thorndike, Joseph J. (Joseph Jacobs), 1913-2005
    Creator: Time-Life Books
    Creator: Gilbert, Martin, 1936-2015
    Creator: Gernsheim, Helmut, 1913-1995
    Creator: Bundesarchiv (Germany)
    Creator: Feuchtwanger, Marta
    Creator: Feuchtwanger, Lion, 1884-1958
    Creator: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie
    Creator: Commager, Henry Steele, 1902-1998
    Creator: Carlisle, Kitty, 1910-2007
    Creator: Capa, Robert, 1913-1954
    Creator: Macmillan Publishing Company
    Creator: Man, Felix H., 1893-1985
    Creator: Lorant, Stefan, 1901-1997
    Creator: Lewis, Morton, 1917-
    Creator: Landesbildstelle Berlin
    Creator: Lenya, Lotte
    Creator: Kaufmann, Edgar J., 1885-1955
    Creator: Kurth, Helmuth
    Creator: Hubmann, Hanns, 1910-
    Creator: Imperial War Museums (Great Britain)
    Creator: Hoffman, Heinrich
    Creator: Harper & Row, Publishers
    Creator: Aigner, Lucien
    Creator: Bantam Books (Firm)
    Creator: Brassaï, 1899-1984
    Creator: Capa, Cornell
    Identifier/Call Number: 920024
    Physical Description: 47 Linear Feet (47 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1869-1993 (bulk 1920-1992)
    Date (bulk): 1920-1992
    Abstract: A founder of modern pictorial journalism. Photographic documentation collected by Lorant represents German history from the Bismarck era to the Nuremberg Trials (ca. 1871-1946). A smaller portion of the collection consists of stills from Lorant's silent films and personal photographs of himself, his friends, and family. Extensive correspondence from his American years primarily concerns book projects.
    Physical Location: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language of Material: Collection material is in English and German.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Stefan Lorant collection represents significant aspects of Lorant's careers as book producer and filmmaker; his better known expertise as a picture magazine editor is not as thoroughly documented. While a significant part of the collection was accumulated during Lorant's years in Europe, a sizable portion consists of photographs he gathered after arriving in America for his book Sieg Heil! An Illustrated History of Germany from Bismarck to Hitler (1974). The movie stills depict scenes from twelve of the fifteen silent films Lorant made between 1920 and 1924, while the personal photos span Lorant's entire life. The correspondence, with a few exceptions, dates from his arrival in America in 1940. The bulk of it pertains to his book projects, though a considerable number of items involve Lorant's pre-war experiences and friends.
    Most of the photos were acquired by Lorant from sources such as the Landesbildstelle, Berlin, the Süddeutsche Verlag, Munich, the National Archives in Washington (D.C.), and news agencies such as United Press International. In addition to his photos from Hungary and Germany, a number of images were accumulated after his arrival in Britain in 1934. Others given to Lorant by friends such as Josephine Baker and Leni Riefenstahl. Important vintage prints were obtained from former Münchner Illustrierte Presse photographers Helmuth Kurth and Hanns Hubmann on European trips in the early seventies. Kurth, a flier in World War I, had joined the Nazi party to become Hermann Goering's official personal photographer.

    Arrangement note

    The archive organized in nine series: Series I. Sieg Heil photos, ca. 1870-ca. 1946; Series II. Chronological subject photos, ca. 1870-ca. 1950s; Series III. Topical subject photos, ca. 1869-ca. 1945; Series IV. Biographical photos, ca. 1870-ca. 1945; Series V. Film stills, 1916-1924; Series VI. Vintage prints, ca. 1890-ca. 1930s; Series VII. Personal photos, ca. 1870-1993; Series VIII. Correspondence, ca. 1940-1991; Series IX. Miscellany, ca. 1927-1993

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Stefan Lorant was born Lóránt Istvánt in Budapest on February 22, 1901. His father was director of Erdélyi, the largest photographic studio in Budapest. Lorant attended the Lutheran Evangelical Gymnasium and the Academy of Economics, where his classmates included Johnny von Neumann and Nobel laureates Eugene Wigner, Dennis Gábor, and Georg von Bekesy. Lorant began taking photographs with a postcard camera, progressed to portrait photos, and in 1914 started publishing photos in Budapest newspapers and magazines. (See Appendix B, Supplement to "I have lived six lives" for a checklist of these photos and other facets of his achievements.) In July 1916 he took movie stills for a film in Budapest. Later that year, a twenty-five line article that accompanied one of his photos became his first byline.
    On Oct. 18, 1919, Lorant fled the White Terror in Hungary. Unable to obtain a visa to enter Germany, he worked in Tetschen (now Podmokly), Czechoslovakia, playing the violin in a small orchestra accompanying silent movies. (He later learned that Franz Kafka had suggested that he be hired.) After six months, he traveled to Berlin, which was in the midst of the Kapp putsch (an armed revolt to restore the German monarchy in 1920), prompting Lorant to leave immediately for Vienna. There he found work as a stills photographer with a movie studio and soon progressed to second cameraman on a film of Mozart's life. Lorant also wrote plays during this period. His film making career continued in Berlin where he made eight films as cameraman, scriptwriter and director. He worked extensively with Conrad Veidt and other movie pioneers and gave Marlene Dietrich her first screen test in the summer of 1921. A complete filmography is in Appendix B.
    Lorant grew weary of the movie business, and as his German reached fluency he wrote articles for newspapers, beginning with the Neue Berliner Zeitung in 1923. He became a contributor to Das Magazin in September 1925 and soon became its assistant editor, and finally its chief editor. From January to July 1927 he edited Ufa Magazin and went on to the helm of Der Ton. The following year he edited Berlin's Bilder Courier. He wrote numerous articles, many under pseudonyms, for these publications and others during these years.
    The most creative phase of his editorial career began when Lorant was appointed Berlin editor of the Münchner Illustrierte Presse ( MIP) in June, 1929; he became its chief editor in Munich a brief time later and held this post until placed in "protective custody" by Hitler on March 14, 1933. With his persuasive handling of visual material for the MIP, Lorant exemplified a new vitality in selection, spacing, and arrangement. Circulation reached 750,000 under his editorship. He published the early photographs of Felix Man, Kurt Hutton (Hübschmann), André Kertész, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Dr. Erich Salomon, and Robert Capa.
    Lorant rode the crest of new picture-taking possibilities that had been opened by the introduction of miniature cameras fitted with high-speed lenses and loaded with fast film. Modern photojournalism was a product of these new cameras, particularly the Leica, converging with roles played by the creative editor, a new kind of photo reporter, and the economic element of competition between the growing number of illustrated magazines for higher profit from higher advertising rates. The photographer was expected to shoot sequences that might be cropped, edited and arranged to form a narrative in pictures with only a minimum of text, making it almost possible to "forget reading." The naturalness and psychological intensity of the MIP and other pictorial weeklies contrasted sharply with the usual stiffly posed portraits of politicos and celebrities. It is worth noting that the photographically-illustrated magazine actually began in Germany when the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung ( BIZ) introduced halftone reproduction in the 1890's. Lorant's innovations appeared among the host of new weeklies that had proliferated in Germany after 1918.
    Simon Guttmann, director of the Dephot picture agency in Berlin, sold many photographs to Lorant. A new role for the picture agency developed under men like Guttmann. Agencies now concerned themselves with generating story ideas, making assignments and collecting fees in addition to maintaining files of pictures from which editors might choose suitable pictures. They often mediated between the publisher and photographer. When Lorant was Berlin editor of MIP there were seven Berlin photo agencies from which he could choose pictures, as well as from the new wave of free-lance photographers. Newer agencies, such as Guttmann's, offered a choice of single pictures or complete photo stories. The editor's right to refuse commissioned work allowed him to shape the photographer's approach to a story. Lorant used his control to systematically explore the photographic interpretation of a theme rather than a chronological depiction of an event. Lorant never consulted with the photographer about the picture selection or layout. In his own words: "I never asked or consulted anybody. I never had an editorial meeting." [Phone conversation, April, 1993]
    In Germany and Hungary, Lorant helped to shape the new generation of photographically-illustrated news magazines with his talent for combining images with words and his flair for storytelling through sequences of pictures. Upon delivery of the prints, the editor took over, though staff writers often provided copy. The words were chosen to explain or illuminate the photos, not to repeat their content. Lorant's criteria for photo selection were simply stated: "That the photograph should not be posed; the camera should be like the notebook of a trained reporter, which records contemporary events as they happen without trying to make a picture; that people should be photographed as they really are and not as they would like to appear; that photo-reportage should concern itself with men and women of every kind and not simply with a small social clique; that everyday life should be portrayed in a realistic unselfconscious way" [Quoted in John R. Whiting, Photography is a Language (New York: Ziff-Davis, 1946].
    On March 14, 1933, just after Hitler seized the Bavarian government, Lorant was imprisoned. Appeals by Hungarian journalists and a debate in the parliament resulted in the Hungarian government securing his release in September 1933. He returned to Hungary for another six months to edit two issues of the Sunday magazine Pesti Naplo and write the book I Was Hitler's Prisoner. Budapest was still a precarious refuge, and he left for England on April 17, 1934 to find an editor for his prison memoir. Through the editor, Robert Fraser, he met the owner of the weekly paper, The Clarion, and was invited to make a dummy for a new magazine. This was eventually published as the Weekly Illustrated, with Lorant as editor, in 1934. Henry Luce and Lorant were friends; when Luce established Life magazine in 1936, he adopted many aspects of Weekly Illustrated. (Lorant was offered the editorship of Life but refused, objecting to "editing by consensus.")
    Lorant set up the company Pocket Publications in 1937 and issued the magazine Lilliput. Contributors to its strong anti-totalitarian stance included Upton Sinclair, Walter Lippmann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Arthur Koestler, Bertrand Russell and Ernst Toller.
    In October 1938, Edward Hulton, owner of the Hulton Press, purchased Lilliput from Lorant and offered him the chance to start what was to be the most successful and influential British news magazine, Picture Post. Here Lorant made his most significant contribution to British photojournalism, recording the full extent of Hitler's atrocities up to that time. With a circulation of 1,700,000, Picture Post provided a vast, popular readership which many individuals, particularly politicians, found desirable to cultivate. Lorant transformed the German photojournalistic experience into an acceptably British product with the help of exile photographers Kurt Hutton (Hübschmann) and Felix Man, and the British photographers Humphrey Spender and Bill Brandt. He also wrote numerous articles for French, English and Hungarian newspapers and magazines.
    The British Home Secretary wanted to control Lorant with the implied threat of arrest or deportation in order to discourage him from publishing anything hostile to the Conservative government. Lorant feared being interned at an Isle of Man compound as a "sitting duck" for invading Germans. On July 23, 1939, a front page attack on Lorant appeared in the Nazi state newspaper Völkischer Beobachter and he was among those at the top of the Gestapo death list. Britain too was becoming a precarious refuge.
    As a friend and confidant of Winston Churchill, he traveled to America at Churchill's behest in December 1939 to edit a special Picture Post issue on the United States. He was assisted on this project by Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and Luce. He returned to England in February 1940. Lorant revisited America in July 1940 and traveled coast to coast on a "working vacation." He decided to remain in the United States on November 11, 1940, settling in the Berkshire mountains near Lenox, Massachusetts. He was widely quoted at the time for the comment: "Hitler can't hang 50 million Englishmen from lamp-posts, but he can hang 50,000 bloody German Jews, and I don't want to be one of them." He became a naturalized American citizen in 1948.
    In the United States he has produced pictorial history books, mainly on American history and presidents, in the same style as his magazines, using sequences rather than single images, captions that "enhance rather than explain" the photographs, and pitched "so that an averagely intelligent 15 year old can follow it easily." Lorant had published two pictorial books in Germany: Wir vom Film (1928, reprinted 1986) and So sehen Wir aus (1930). His original book on Lincoln (1941) included every known photograph, with a number he himself had unearthed. He published countless other historical images for the first time. A tireless researcher, he procured most photographs one by one, following hundreds of letters and leads. He amassed over 30,000 images relating to the American presidency. None of his books have had print runs below 100,000 and some have topped 600,000. Edgar Kaufmann Jr, owner of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" house in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, persuaded him to compile and edit a book on Pittsburgh. Lorant hired W. Eugene Smith to take pictures of Pittsburgh for the book. (A complete listing of Lorant's books is in Appendix B.)
    Lorant received an M.A. in history from Harvard at the age of 60. He has received honorary doctorates from Syracuse University, the University of Bradford and Knox College. In 1990 he returned to England after a fifty-year hiatus for honors at the National Museum of Photography in Bradford. He received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography in 1992.
    Lorant married three times and has three children. He describes himself as "a Hungarian journalist who doesn't believe what he reads in the papers."

    Separated Materials

    These materials are housed in Special Periodicals. Each title appears in the Getty Research Institute online catalog. Consult the online catalog for call numbers and request materials through the Department of Special Collections and Visual Resources.
    Das Magazin (Leipzig). The first issue appeared in September 1924. Lorant became a contributor a year later, and soon thereafter he became its "responsible" editor, then its chief editor. Issues: 7-14 (March -Oct. 1925) in two bound volumes; 22 loose issues: no.2 (Oct. 1924); 3 (Nov. 1924); 5 (Jan. 1925); 10 (June 1925); 12-13 (Aug.-Sept. 1925); 16-17 (Dec. 1925 -Jan. 1926); 20-25 (April -Sept. 1926); 27 (Nov. 1926); 29-32 (Jan. 1927 -April 1927); 35 (July 1927); 74-75 (Oct. -Nov. 1930). Münchner Illustrierte Presse (Munich). A complete set in fourteen bound volumes, from its first issue in 1926 up to Hitler's accession to power in Bavaria on March 9, 1933. The set also includes additional issues up to June 25, 1933, which were edited by the Nazis. UFA Magazin (Berlin). January 14 to July 27, 1927 in one bound volume. Bilder Courier (Berlin). The issues Lorant edited from March 6 to December 18, 1927, and January 1 to December 30, 1928 are in two bound volumes. Weekly Illustrated (London). One bound volume contains the twenty-two issues Lorant edited from July to December 1934. Lilliput (London). The issues under Lorant's editorship from July 1937 to June 1940 are in six bound volumes. Pesto Naplo (Budapest). 2 issues: December 1933; January 1934 Picture Post (London). October 1938 through July 1940 in six bound volumes. Volume one includes the dummy. Picture Post. Dummy, October 1, 1938 (one bound volume). Picture Post Special: The United States

    Related Material

    Serial publications that Lorant edited in Germany, Hungary, and England are housed in Special Periodicals, in the Getty Research Library.

    Processing History

    Brent Maddox processed the collection, with assistance from Eva Legler, March-November 1993, and cataloged it in April 1994.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was acquired from Stefan Lorant in 1991; additions were received in the summer of 1993.

    Preferred Citation

    Stefan Lorant collection, ca. 1869-1993 (bulk 1920-1992), Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 920024.

    Publication Rights


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Life Look Saturday Review
    Germany. Reichstag—Dissolution
    Germany -- Politics and government -- 1871-1933
    Germany -- Intellectual life -- 20th century
    Germany -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
    Germany -- Social conditions -- 1871-1918
    Germany -- History -- 1933-1945
    Germany -- Defenses
    Germany -- History -- Allied occupation, 1918-1930
    Germany -- Economic conditions -- 1918-1945
    Germany -- Foreign relations -- 1871-1918
    Silent films -- Austria -- Vienna
    Germany -- History -- 1871-1918
    Silent films -- Germany -- Berlin
    Germany -- History -- March Uprising, 1921
    Constitutional history -- Germany
    Kristallnacht, 1938
    Germany -- History -- Beer Hall Putsch, 1923
    Germany -- History -- Revolution, 1918
    Germany -- History -- Kapp Putsch, 1920
    Germany -- History -- Night of the Long Knives, 1934
    Reinhardt, Max, 1873-1943
    Riefenstahl, Leni
    Meissner, Hans Otto
    William, German Emperor, II, 1859-1941
    William, Crown Prince of Germany, 1882-1951
    Wessel, Horst, 1907-1930
    William, German Emperor, I, 1797-1888
    Thälmann, Ernst, 1886-1944
    Göring, Hermann, 1893-1946
    Goebbels, Joseph, 1897-1945
    Gert, Valeska
    Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
    Dietrich, Marlene
    Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
    Lorant, Stefan, 1901-1997
    Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
    Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
    Hindenburg, Paul von, 1847-1934
    Andra, Fern, 1893-1974
    Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990
    Bismarck, Otto, Fürst von, 1815-1898
    Braun, Eva