Black Star: Making History Since 1935

New York, 1935. The city is overflowing with immigrants from Europe. Among them are Kurt Safranski, Ernest Mayer and Kurt Kornfield.

A few years before they were still successful professionals in the flourishing world of publishing and newspapers in the Weimar Republic. Safranski had been an editor at the publishing house Ullstein, Mayer had been a picture agent, while Kornfield had been a literary agent.

The Berlin Jews were fleeing from the Nazi terror to New York. Here they sought to gain a foothold in the American press.

Pioneering Photojournalism

It was Mayer who made the decisive step uptown into the Rockefeller Center to Time Inc. He brought with him an enormous pile of essays from photographers including Fritz Goro and Paul Wolff, whom he had brought safely from Berlin to New York.

Soon after, the chief editors of Life Magazine had chosen Black Star as one of their main suppliers of pictures.

Emigre photojournalists viewed the agency as their best means of gaining access to the magazine. For the mostly Jewish photographers, Black Star was a piece of Europe in the middle of New York.

The list of those who in the early years signed a contract with Black Star reads like a Who’s Who of photojournalism in the following decades: Walter Bosshard, Robert Capa, Ralph Crane, Herbert Gehr, Fritz Goro, Andreas Feininger, Ernst Haas and Philippe Halsmann, to name but a few.

According to photo historian Marianne Fulton, Life brought Black Star 30 to 40 per cent of its business. Black Star, in turn, contributed to Life becoming the most popular magazine in America for nearly three decades, with tens of millions of readers.

Excellence in Corporate Photography

As the photography industry evolved and the number of traditional photojournalism outlets declined, Black Star began seeking new opportunities for its photographers’ talents.

Beginning in the 1960s, the agency sought to bring the highest caliber of photography to corporate clients. Today, corporate assignment photography is the largest part of Black Star’s business.

Among its achievements, Black Star has captured more images for more annual reports than any other photo agency or service in the world. The agency’s client roster includes Fortune 100 mainstays such as General Electric, Exxon Mobil, PepsiCo, AT&T, Citigroup, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., United Technologies, and Coca-Cola.

As Black Star enters its 76th year of continuous operation, the fighting spirit of the agency’s founders lives on in the company’s New York offices. With digital technology and the Web remaking the photography industry once again, Black Star continues to work tirelessly — and enthusiastically — toward the solution of new photographic problems.

Join us, won’t you?