Donor Spotlight: The Scheuer Family

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Scheuer Family


(from left) Jonathan Scheuer, Marian Scheuer Sofaer, Joan Scheuer, and Dan Scheuer

Street Visions: Europe, 1934 – Photographs by Richard J. Scheuer
This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of Marian Scheuer Sofaer, Dan Scheuer, and Jonathan Scheuer, who reflect on their father’s photographs of a vanished world, now seen by the public for the first time at HUC-JIR’s Heller Museum in New York. Richard Scheuer, z”l, was a member of HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors (1962-2008) and served as Board Chairman (1983-1990). Learn more here.

Marian Scheuer Sofaer: Growing up as Dick Scheuer’s daughter, I had an early introduction to photography. I was still in elementary school when my father gave me a camera that was decidedly not a toy. Rather, it was a Rolleiflex, and looked very important. He told me that he chose it so that I would frame each photo in the square viewing frame before I took the photo. He was very clear that looking down into the square frame would help me set up a shot with visual appeal, and that each photo had to be made with that aesthetic consideration, in addition to the light exposure and the moment one captured. Street photography was a kind of poetry for my father, making an art of the ordinary.

Dan Scheuer: We celebrate the story of a kid from New York, who travels to Europe with a rangefinder 35mm camera during the worldwide Great Depression, between the two world wars. Richard deploys the full toolbox of 35mm street photography. Always photographing in natural or found light, he uses precise framing, exquisite timing, and sensitive attention to lighting, shapes, textures, and gestures. He is interested in the local people. Not just what they look like, but what they do. However, when we come to the Warsaw photos we are confronted with a very different set of emotions: poignant and painful. We know that most, if not all, the people in these Warsaw photographs, their families, and almost everyone they knew, likely perished, in the six years of the Holocaust which began with the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, almost exactly 5 years after Dick made these photographs.

Jonathan Scheuer: One of the most interesting aspects of the process of researching and restoring these pictures has been the sense that Dan, Charlie Seton (restorer of the photographs), and I developed of almost traveling alongside my father and his companions on this 1934 voyage. And yet there is so much about this journey that we don’t know. But that’s really always the case in dealing with archival or historical materials, however well documented they may be. There is always an untold half that can only be apprehended by those who were there in that moment.

[Excerpted from remarks presented at the reception and program on September 22, 2022]