32nd Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI

May 10, 2024  | 10am - 12pm ET

Award of the 2024 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize at the GHI | Prize Winner: Steven Samols (University College London)

2024 Prize Winner: Steven Weiss Samols, Photobooks as Jewish History: German-speaking Jews, Images, and the Transatlantic Construction of a Common Past, Department of History, University of Southern California, 2023)

The Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize is kindly sponsored by the Friends of the German Historical Institute. Since 1997 the Friends of the German Historical Institute have awarded the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize for the best doctoral dissertation on a topic in German history written at a North American university. For his Fritz Stern Prize lecture "Capturing Difference, Making History: The Photobook as a Jewish Artifact," Dr. Samols will explore how German-speaking Jewish authors created and used photographic books to craft history “from below” through the twentieth century. Tracing the evolution of the photobook, the photo essay in book form, the lecture details the ways in which Jewish photographers, editors, and publishers managed to render their experiences of everyday life and persecution part of mainstream, historical narratives. Beginning in 1910s Central Europe, photobooks helped put Jewish difference at the center of cultural life. As the photobook expanded in size and popularity from the 1930s on, the format also became a key site of Jewish documentary in an era of violent antisemitism. Those works recorded ways of life under threat, the forced mobility of whole communities, and ultimately extermination and genocide. By the 1970s, glossy, over-sized coffee table volumes memorialized these histories for readers across the Atlantic. The images preserved by these works endured well beyond the page, generating a multi-media constellation across museums, best-selling fiction, Hollywood films, and scholarship. In these ways, photobooks have helped craft a twentieth century Jewish history that is widely familiar even to those who have never picked up these books.

About the Speaker

Dr. Steven Samols is a Rothschild Postdoctoral Fellow at University College London in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. His research explores the connections between European history, Jewish studies, and visual cultures across the twentieth century. Before his current Fellowship, Steven earned a Ph.D. in the Department of History at the University of Southern California in 2023. He also holds an M.Sc. in European Studies from the London School of Economics and a B.A. in History from New York University.