M Benkow

1894–1952


Marian Anderson.
From the University of Pennsylvania Collections with over 5000 photographs in the singer's archive. Photographers loved her just as much as the opera fans and she loved the camera. Her albums will give you a tour of portrait styles during decades as well as a hundred snapshots of her in the Nordic snowy landscapes and sunny archipelagos!
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As a surprise tribute to an otherwise rather forgotten photographer, the U. S. Postal Service issued in 2005 a commemorative stamp featuring the legendary contraalto singer Marian Anderson. It was based on a photograph taken by Moisé Benkow in his Stockholm studio, probably late 1933. All recent sources say 1934, but the singer came to Sweden in October, 1933 and toured Scandinavia for a few weeks after a successful appearance in the Stockholm Concert Hall. Her long tour then took her to Paris and London. She did however return to Scandinavia in the summer of 1934.
I dont't know how she ended up in Benkow's studio, but he was eager to include celebrities in his portfolio – from which he made frequent exhibitions.

Benkow never used his first name publicly. In all the newspaper clippings he collected, he is always referred to as "Mr M Benkow".The Jewish "Moisé" or "Moses" was problably not an ideal name during his most prolific decade, the 1930s!
His father Elias (Chaym) came to Göteborg from Russia in 1906 as a photographer and moved the studio to Stockholm in 1914. Moisé took over the studio in 1924, his brother Ivan settled as a photographer in Norway. Of course they had learned the trade from their father, but Moisé had also spent the prewar years studying painting in Göteborg and Berlin. He spent his last years from 1950 as a student of André Loth in Paris.

He ran a portrait studio, but the images that secured him his position in the history are a number of ballet and nude studies, where the already sparse studio decorations had vanished totally. This is "Sorrow" from 1934:

 

 In his press clippings, I find a person who resembles Henry Goodwin with his frequent exhibitions, lectures, international outlook, statements to the press and a portfolio of celebrities (photographed free of charge). But he never produced any books and thera are very little to collect. Still, he merits more research. (Note: Ex dancer Anna Riwkin worked as his assistant before opening her own studio in 1928)