arts 03.31.08

Clemens Kalischer

Japan has a lovely designation for its most esteemed artists: living national treasure. Since the closest thing we have seems to be the Kennedy Center Honors (hardly the same thing), there's no one to stop us from doing the nominating ourselves. We nominate photographer Clemens Kalischer.

Born in Germany, 1921, Mr. Kalischer fled his native country in 1933 to France, where he was held in various detention camps during the war. In 1942 he was able to escape to the U.S. From his first days here, Mr. Kalischer focused his camera lens on people. One of his first series of photographs was called "Displaced Persons." They are images of Holocaust refugees as they came into the country and they retain an extraordinary, aching power.

Over the years, Mr. Kalischer worked for The NY Times, Time and Life and contributed to Edward Steichen's The Family of Man. He also took many extraordinary shots of ordinary New York, such as this man reading a newspaper.

Mr. Kalischer continues to work in his Stockbridge, Massachusetts studio. You can see his photographs in Great Barrington's Vault Gallery and in a book of his images, published in 2002.

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