Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Stefan Lorant collection
Dates: ca. 1869-1993
Collection number: 920024
Lorant, Stefan, 1901-
ca. 47 linear ft.
Getty Research Institute
Special Collections and Visual Resources
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
Abstract: A founder of modern pictorial journalism. Photographic documentation collected by Lorant represents German history from the
Bismarck era to the Nuremberg Trials (ca. 1871-1946). A smaller portion of the collection consists of stills from Lorant's
silent films and personal photographs of himself, his friends, and family. Extensive correspondence from his American years
primarily concerns book projects.
Language: Collection material in English, and German
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Stefan Lorant collection, ca. 1869-1993 (bulk 1920-1992), Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 920024.
The collection was acquired from Stefan Lorant in 1991; additions were received in the summer of 1993.
Brent Maddox processed the collection, with assistance from Eva Legler, March-November 1993, and cataloged it in April 1994.
Serial publications that Lorant edited in Germany, Hungary, and England are housed in Special Periodicals, in the Getty Research
These materials are housed in Special Periodicals. Each title appears in the Getty Research Institute online catalog. Consult
the online catalog for call numbers and request materials through the Department of Special Collections and Visual Resources.
Das Magazin (Leipzig). The first issue appeared in September 1924. Lorant became a contributor a year later, and soon thereafter he became
its "responsible" editor, then its chief editor. Issues: 7-14 (March -Oct. 1925) in two bound volumes; 22 loose issues: no.2
(Oct. 1924); 3 (Nov. 1924); 5 (Jan. 1925); 10 (June 1925); 12-13 (Aug.-Sept. 1925); 16-17 (Dec. 1925 -Jan. 1926); 20-25 (April
-Sept. 1926); 27 (Nov. 1926); 29-32 (Jan. 1927 -April 1927); 35 (July 1927); 74-75 (Oct. -Nov. 1930).
Münchner Illustrierte Presse (Munich). A complete set in fourteen bound volumes, from its first issue in 1926 up to Hitler's accession to power in Bavaria
on March 9, 1933. The set also includes additional issues up to June 25, 1933, which were edited by the Nazis.
UFA Magazin (Berlin). January 14 to July 27, 1927 in one bound volume.
Bilder Courier (Berlin). The issues Lorant edited from March 6 to December 18, 1927, and January 1 to December 30, 1928 are in two bound
Weekly Illustrated (London). One bound volume contains the twenty-two issues Lorant edited from July to December 1934.
Lilliput (London). The issues under Lorant's editorship from July 1937 to June 1940 are in six bound volumes.
Pesto Naplo (Budapest). 2 issues: December 1933; January 1934
Picture Post (London). October 1938 through July 1940 in six bound volumes. Volume one includes the dummy.
Dummy, October 1, 1938 (one bound volume).
Picture Post Special: The United States
Stefan Lorant was born Lóránt Istvánt in Budapest on February 22, 1901. His father was director of Erdélyi, the largest photographic
studio in Budapest. Lorant attended the Lutheran Evangelical Gymnasium and the Academy of Economics, where his classmates
included Johnny von Neumann and Nobel laureates Eugene Wigner, Dennis Gábor, and Georg von Bekesy. Lorant began taking photographs
with a postcard camera, progressed to portrait photos, and in 1914 started publishing photos in Budapest newspapers and magazines.
(See Appendix B, Supplement to "I have lived six lives" for a checklist of these photos and other facets of his achievements.)
In July 1916 he took movie stills for a film in Budapest. Later that year, a twenty-five line article that accompanied one
of his photos became his first byline.
On Oct. 18, 1919, Lorant fled the White Terror in Hungary. Unable to obtain a visa to enter Germany, he worked in Tetschen
(now Podmokly), Czechoslovakia, playing the violin in a small orchestra accompanying silent movies. (He later learned that
Franz Kafka had suggested that he be hired.) After six months, he traveled to Berlin, which was in the midst of the Kapp putsch
(an armed revolt to restore the German monarchy in 1920), prompting Lorant to leave immediately for Vienna. There he found
work as a stills photographer with a movie studio and soon progressed to second cameraman on a film of Mozart's life. Lorant
also wrote plays during this period. His film making career continued in Berlin where he made eight films as cameraman, scriptwriter
and director. He worked extensively with Conrad Veidt and other movie pioneers and gave Marlene Dietrich her first screen
test in the summer of 1921. A complete filmography is in Appendix B.
Lorant grew weary of the movie business, and as his German reached fluency he wrote articles for newspapers, beginning with
Neue Berliner Zeitung in 1923. He became a contributor to
Das Magazin in September 1925 and soon became its assistant editor, and finally its chief editor. From January to July 1927 he edited
Ufa Magazin and went on to the helm of
Der Ton. The following year he edited Berlin's
Bilder Courier. He wrote numerous articles, many under pseudonyms, for these publications and others during these years.
The most creative phase of his editorial career began when Lorant was appointed Berlin editor of the
Münchner Illustrierte Presse (
MIP) in June, 1929; he became its chief editor in Munich a brief time later and held this post until placed in "protective custody"
by Hitler on March 14, 1933. With his persuasive handling of visual material for the
MIP, Lorant exemplified a new vitality in selection, spacing, and arrangement. Circulation reached 750,000 under his editorship.
He published the early photographs of Felix Man, Kurt Hutton (Hübschmann), André Kertész, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Dr. Erich Salomon,
and Robert Capa.
Lorant rode the crest of new picture-taking possibilities that had been opened by the introduction of miniature cameras fitted
with high-speed lenses and loaded with fast film. Modern photojournalism was a product of these new cameras, particularly
the Leica, converging with roles played by the creative editor, a new kind of photo reporter, and the economic element of
competition between the growing number of illustrated magazines for higher profit from higher advertising rates. The photographer
was expected to shoot sequences that might be cropped, edited and arranged to form a narrative in pictures with only a minimum
of text, making it almost possible to "forget reading." The naturalness and psychological intensity of the
MIP and other pictorial weeklies contrasted sharply with the usual stiffly posed portraits of politicos and celebrities. It is
worth noting that the photographically-illustrated magazine actually began in Germany when the
Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung (
BIZ) introduced halftone reproduction in the 1890's. Lorant's innovations appeared among the host of new weeklies that had proliferated
in Germany after 1918.
Simon Guttmann, director of the Dephot picture agency in Berlin, sold many photographs to Lorant. A new role for the picture
agency developed under men like Guttmann. Agencies now concerned themselves with generating story ideas, making assignments
and collecting fees in addition to maintaining files of pictures from which editors might choose suitable pictures. They often
mediated between the publisher and photographer. When Lorant was Berlin editor of
MIP there were seven Berlin photo agencies from which he could choose pictures, as well as from the new wave of free-lance photographers.
Newer agencies, such as Guttmann's, offered a choice of single pictures or complete photo stories. The editor's right to refuse
commissioned work allowed him to shape the photographer's approach to a story. Lorant used his control to systematically explore
the photographic interpretation of a theme rather than a chronological depiction of an event. Lorant never consulted with
the photographer about the picture selection or layout. In his own words: "I never asked or consulted anybody. I never had
an editorial meeting." [Phone conversation, April, 1993]
In Germany and Hungary, Lorant helped to shape the new generation of photographically-illustrated news magazines with his
talent for combining images with words and his flair for storytelling through sequences of pictures. Upon delivery of the
prints, the editor took over, though staff writers often provided copy. The words were chosen to explain or illuminate the
photos, not to repeat their content. Lorant's criteria for photo selection were simply stated: "That the photograph should
not be posed; the camera should be like the notebook of a trained reporter, which records contemporary events as they happen
without trying to make a picture; that people should be photographed as they really are and not as they would like to appear;
that photo-reportage should concern itself with men and women of every kind and not simply with a small social clique; that
everyday life should be portrayed in a realistic unselfconscious way" [Quoted in John R. Whiting,
Photography is a Language (New York: Ziff-Davis, 1946].
On March 14, 1933, just after Hitler seized the Bavarian government, Lorant was imprisoned. Appeals by Hungarian journalists
and a debate in the parliament resulted in the Hungarian government securing his release in September 1933. He returned to
Hungary for another six months to edit two issues of the Sunday magazine
Pesti Naplo and write the book
I Was Hitler's Prisoner. Budapest was still a precarious refuge, and he left for England on April 17, 1934 to find an editor for his prison memoir.
Through the editor, Robert Fraser, he met the owner of the weekly paper,
The Clarion, and was invited to make a dummy for a new magazine. This was eventually published as the
Weekly Illustrated, with Lorant as editor, in 1934. Henry Luce and Lorant were friends; when Luce established
Life magazine in 1936, he adopted many aspects of
Weekly Illustrated. (Lorant was offered the editorship of
Life but refused, objecting to "editing by consensus.")
Lorant set up the company Pocket Publications in 1937 and issued the magazine
Lilliput. Contributors to its strong anti-totalitarian stance included Upton Sinclair, Walter Lippmann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Arthur
Koestler, Bertrand Russell and Ernst Toller.
In October 1938, Edward Hulton, owner of the Hulton Press, purchased
Lilliput from Lorant and offered him the chance to start what was to be the most successful and influential British news magazine,
Picture Post. Here Lorant made his most significant contribution to British photojournalism, recording the full extent of Hitler's atrocities
up to that time. With a circulation of 1,700,000,
Picture Post provided a vast, popular readership which many individuals, particularly politicians, found desirable to cultivate. Lorant
transformed the German photojournalistic experience into an acceptably British product with the help of exile photographers
Kurt Hutton (Hübschmann) and Felix Man, and the British photographers Humphrey Spender and Bill Brandt. He also wrote numerous
articles for French, English and Hungarian newspapers and magazines.
The British Home Secretary wanted to control Lorant with the implied threat of arrest or deportation in order to discourage
him from publishing anything hostile to the Conservative government. Lorant feared being interned at an Isle of Man compound
as a "sitting duck" for invading Germans. On July 23, 1939, a front page attack on Lorant appeared in the Nazi state newspaper
Völkischer Beobachter and he was among those at the top of the Gestapo death list. Britain too was becoming a precarious refuge.
As a friend and confidant of Winston Churchill, he traveled to America at Churchill's behest in December 1939 to edit a special
Picture Post issue on the United States. He was assisted on this project by Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and Luce. He returned to England
in February 1940. Lorant revisited America in July 1940 and traveled coast to coast on a "working vacation." He decided to
remain in the United States on November 11, 1940, settling in the Berkshire mountains near Lenox, Massachusetts. He was widely
quoted at the time for the comment: "Hitler can't hang 50 million Englishmen from lamp-posts, but he can hang 50,000 bloody
German Jews, and I don't want to be one of them." He became a naturalized American citizen in 1948.
In the United States he has produced pictorial history books, mainly on American history and presidents, in the same style
as his magazines, using sequences rather than single images, captions that "enhance rather than explain" the photographs,
and pitched "so that an averagely intelligent 15 year old can follow it easily." Lorant had published two pictorial books
Wir vom Film (1928, reprinted 1986) and
So sehen Wir aus (1930). His original book on Lincoln (1941) included every known photograph, with a number he himself had unearthed. He published
countless other historical images for the first time. A tireless researcher, he procured most photographs one by one, following
hundreds of letters and leads. He amassed over 30,000 images relating to the American presidency. None of his books have had
print runs below 100,000 and some have topped 600,000. Edgar Kaufmann Jr, owner of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" house
in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, persuaded him to compile and edit a book on Pittsburgh. Lorant hired W. Eugene Smith to take pictures
of Pittsburgh for the book. (A complete listing of Lorant's books is in Appendix B.)
Lorant received an M.A. in history from Harvard at the age of 60. He has received honorary doctorates from Syracuse University,
the University of Bradford and Knox College. In 1990 he returned to England after a fifty-year hiatus for honors at the National
Museum of Photography in Bradford. He received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of
Photography in 1992.
Lorant married three times and has three children. He describes himself as "a Hungarian journalist who doesn't believe what
he reads in the papers."
Scope and Content of Collection
The Stefan Lorant collection represents significant aspects of Lorant's careers as book producer and filmmaker; his better
known expertise as a picture magazine editor is not as thoroughly documented. While a significant part of the collection was
accumulated during Lorant's years in Europe, a sizable portion consists of photographs he gathered after arriving in America
for his book
Sieg Heil! An Illustrated History of Germany from Bismarck to Hitler (1974). The movie stills depict scenes from twelve of the fifteen silent films Lorant made between 1920 and 1924, while the
personal photos span Lorant's entire life. The correspondence, with a few exceptions, dates from his arrival in America in
1940. The bulk of it pertains to his book projects, though a considerable number of items involve Lorant's pre-war experiences
Most of the photos were acquired by Lorant from sources such as the Landesbildstelle, Berlin, the Süddeutsche Verlag, Munich,
the National Archives in Washington (D.C.), and news agencies such as United Press International. In addition to his photos
from Hungary and Germany, a number of images were accumulated after his arrival in Britain in 1934. Others given to Lorant
by friends such as Josephine Baker and Leni Riefenstahl. Important vintage prints were obtained from former
Münchner Illustrierte Presse photographers Helmuth Kurth and Hanns Hubmann on European trips in the early seventies. Kurth, a flier in World War I, had
joined the Nazi party to become Hermann Goering's official personal photographer.
Subjects - Individual and Organizations
Andra, Fern, 1893-1974
Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-
Bismarck, Otto, Fürst von, 1815-1898
Churchill, Winston, Sir, 1874-1965
Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
Goebbels, Joseph, 1897-1945
Göring, Hermann, 1893-1946
Hindenburg, Paul von, 1847-1934
Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Lorant, Stefan, 1901-
Meissner, Hans Otto
Reinhardt, Max, 1873-1943
Thälmann, Ernst, 1886-1944
Wessel, Horst, 1907-1930
William, Crown Prince of Germany, 1882-1951
William I, German Emperor, 1797-1888
William II, German Emperor, 1859-1941
Subjects - Topics
Subjects - Places
Germany—History—Allied occupation, 1918-1930
Germany—History—Beer Hall Putsch, 1923
Germany—History—Kapp Putsch, 1920
Germany—History—March Uprising, 1921
Germany—History—Night of the Long Knives, 1934
Germany—Intellectual life—20th century
Germany—Politics and government—1871-1933
Germany—Social life and customs—20th century
Contributors - Individuals
Capa, Robert, 1913-1954
Carlisle, Kitty, 1915-
Commager, Henry Steele, 1902-
Feuchtwanger, Lion, 1884-1958
Gernsheim, Helmut, 1913-
Gilbert, Martin, 1936-
Hoffman, Heinrich, 1885-1957
Kaufmann, Edgar J., 1885-1957
Lewis, Morton, 1917-
Man, Felix H., 1893-
Neutra, Richard Joseph, 1892-1970
Newhall, Beaumont, 1908-
Prudden, Bonnie, 1914-
Rockwell, Norm (Norman)
Shirer, William L. (William lawrence), 1904-
Thorndike, Joseph Jacobs, 1913-
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1929
Sille, Heinrich, 1858-1929
Contributors - Organizations
Bantam Books (Firm)
Germany (West). Bundesarchiv
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie
Harper & Row, Publishers
Imperial War Museum (Great Britain)
Macmillan Publishing Company
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
Simon and Schuster, inc.
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin—Preussischer Kulturbesitz.
Süddeutscher Verlag (Firm)
Time-Life Books (Firm)
Washington National Records Center (U.S.)