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Gidal, Tim


GIDAL, TIM (Ignaz Nachum Gidalewitsch ; 1909–1996), photographer. Gidal was born into an Orthodox family of Russian immigrants in Munich. From 1929 he was among the pioneers of modern photojournalism and became one of its leading historians. Based in Jerusalem between 1936 and 1947, and again from 1970, he has achieved an international reputation.

Gidal started taking photographs during his studies (1928–1935) at the universities of Munich, Berlin, and Basle. His photographs were published in the foremost illustrated weeklies in Germany. In 1936 Gidal immigrated to Palestine where he continued his work. In 1938 he moved to London, where he worked for Picture Post, the magazine in which the new medium reached its zenith. Between 1942 and 1944 he served as Chief Staff Reporter for Parade, the Eighth Army magazine. In 1947 he found a new base in New York where he stayed until 1970, the time of his return to Jerusalem. During this period Gidal and his first wife Sonia traveled the world and produced a series of 23 photographic books, entitled My Village. He also served as consultant for Life magazine and taught at the New School for Social Research in New York. From 1971, he taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and produced scholarly works and compilation albums including his seminal Modern Photojournalism: Origin and Evolution 1910–1933 (1972); Ewiges Jerusalem/Eternal Jerusalem 1840–1914 (1980) (one of the most beautiful published collections of photographs on Jerusalem); and in 1988, a major work of illustrated history, The Jews in Germany from Roman Times until the Weimar Republic (in German). During this period, he also published and exhibited his work in Israel, Europe and the U.S., and in 1983 was awarded the prestigious Dr. Erich Salomon Prize in Germany. His photo-history of Palestine/Israel appeared in the Encyclopaedia Judaica Year Books 1973, 1974, and 1975 and were subsequently published in The Land of Israel: 100 Years Plus 30 (1978).

Critics have said about Gidal's photography that "it has about it a visual innocence going straight for the subject photographed," but describing his photographs as innocent does not mean that they are necessarily simplistic or naive. Speaking of his own pictures, Gidal insists that he is not an artist. "An artist adds to nature. His personality is an ingredient of his painting. With my camera, I can only use what is already there. Art is expression of the inner self. Photography is a depiction of the outer world."

Gidal sees his photographs "as a variation on the everlasting theme of the tragicomedy of daily life, facts of the human condition. I do not wait until the selected moment satisfies a constructivist formal urge. I am directed more by participating and by intuition." His photography communicates an accomplished sense for simplicity and straightforwardness, representing a balance between his keen sense of form and construction and his respect for the subject itself.

His brother, George Gidal (1908–1931), was also a pioneer photojournalist in Germany whose promising career was cut short by his death in a car accident.


N. Trow, Tim Gidal in the Forties (1981); idem, Tim Gidal: A Visual Ethic (1982).

[Yeshayahu Nir]

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