A Rare Glimpse Into Swinging Tel Aviv

Tens of thousands of pictures documenting life in 1960s-’80s Israel by photojournalist Nachum Guttmann (not the painter) are to be auctioned off next month

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Swiss movie star and model Ursula Andress on a visit to Israel.
Swiss movie star and model Ursula Andress on a visit to Israel.Credit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Photojournalist Nachum Guttmann – who shares the same name (albeit spelled differently) of the iconic Israeli painter and sculptor – had a ploy for advertising himself, when frequenting the legendary Café Kassit on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street. He would ask his secretary to phone him while he was there and ask for “Guttmann, the photographer.” The waiters would then shout out, “Nachum Guttmann, the photographer, phone call!” – whereupon Guttmann would yell back, “I’m busy shooting!”

Today, at age 85, he recalls, “slowly but surely the people at the cafe knew I was a photographer and the offers started coming my way.”

Actor and musician Yossi Banai and TV host and actress Rivka Michaeli.
Actor and musician Yossi Banai and TV host and actress Rivka Michaeli.Credit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House
Actor Gavri Banai and a friend.
Actor Gavri Banai and a friend.Credit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House
Rock group the High Windows (Arik Einstein, left, Josie Katz, and Shmulik Krauss)
Rock group the High Windows (Arik Einstein, left, Josie Katz, and Shmulik Krauss)Credit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House

Next month, tens of thousands of Guttmann’s photographs, which document life in Israel from the 1960s through the ‘80s, will go on the block at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem. The starting price for the collection is $40,000.

Beauty queen Esther Kfir
Beauty queen Esther KfirCredit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House
Model Esther Ben-Ze'ev
Model Esther Ben-Ze'evCredit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House
Israeli singer Arik Einstein.
Israeli singer Arik Einstein.Credit: Nachum Gutmann / Kedem Auction House

Among the works to be sold are photographs of movie stars and theater actors (whether international figures like Swiss-born Ursula Andress, or local ones, such as singer-songwriter Arik Einstein or actors Hanna Rovina and Shaike Ophir); Israeli poets (Natan Alterman, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Natan Zach, Yehuda Amichai and David Avidan, the latter three in a group photo); and fashion models.

Guttmann was born into a Hasidic family in Hungary and survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, immigrating to Palestine by himself at age 14. He began photographing for the weekly Haolam Hazeh newsmagazine in the 1950s, and worked for other newspapers as well during his career. In the 1960s he cofounded a news agency that published some of the most famous photos of the 1967 Six-Day War, when he was embedded with Israel Defense Forces troops that reached the Suez Canal.

As he once wrote, “I always strove as a photojournalist for pictures that were worth a thousand words.”

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