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Zaida Ben Y˙sufAn important female artistic photographer who had a studio first at 124 Fifth Ave. in 1897 and later at 578 Fifth Ave. in New York City. Writing in 1899, the photographic and art critic Sadakichi Hartmann wrote a profile of her entitled:"A Purist"
"Personally she is very fastidious in her taste, one of those peculiar persons who can only live in a room with wall paper of a most violent blue. In her dresses she is a second Mrs. Hovey, although not quite as eccentric. She attends Ibsen performances, and everything else that mildly stirs up the Bohemian circles, reads decadent literature, and fancies high-keyed pictures such as outshout each other in color, best.
And yet, strange to say, in her photography she almost escapes her environment. There is no suggestion of it; everything is sober, intelligent, and refined. She perfectly understands the limitations of photography, and in producing pictorial results relies more on the mechanical assistance of the soulless camera than on her own creative power. There is no affectation in her art. And although the majority of her pictures have noticeable qualities that mark them as peculiarly noteworthy and interesting to an observer, the effects are all obtained legitimately."
[Reprinted in Lawton, Harry W. (ed) and George Knox (ed) with the collaboration of Wistaria Hartmann Linton The Valiant Knights of Daguerre: Selected critical essays on photography and profiles of photographic pioneers by Sadakichi Hartmann University of California Press: Berkely and Los Angeles, 1978 p.170-171]
We have not found dates for Ben-Y˙suf. A contemporary to Gertrude Kńsebier in that they were pioneering women photographers operating studios in New York City at about the same time, she may well have been originally from England, as revealed by a footnote to the Hartmann profile. Writing in Wilson's Photographic Magazine 36 (March 1899), the author Richard Hines, Jr. describes Ben-Y˙suf as "an English girl, transplanted to America," who conducted a studio on Fifth Avenue, and had already exhibited at the Vienna Camera Club and had two pictures represented at a Kodak loan exhibition." (The Valiant Knights of Daquerre: page #329)
Three of her photographs were reproduced as halftones in Camera Notes: April, 1898, July, 1898 and a portrait of Hartmann himself in July, 1899.