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.”
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.
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.”