August 17th, 2016 marks the day that photographer Lotte Jacobi would have celebrated her 120th birthday. Internationally lauded, Jacobi’s work earned her the praise of many noteworthy figures in history, leading to jobs photographing international icons like Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and J.D. Salinger. Despite her success on the global stage, she spent 45 years enjoying a quiet, rural life offered by Deering, New Hampshire.
The artist left her mark on the granite state in many ways, such as photographing our beloved Robert Frost. She was also named Honorary Curator of Photography at the Currier Museum of Art, about a decade after her photography was first exhibited there. Shortly after she passed away on May 6th, 1990, NHPR Arts Reporter Phillip Bragdon (who remembers Jacobi fondly as one of his “more vocal listeners”) explored the impact Jacobi had on photography as an art form.
The spirit of Jacobi and her dedication to art lives on through The Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award. As the inaugural recipient in 1980, the award was later named for her, and honors New Hampshire’s artists. Other winners include Karl Drerup, Donald Hall, Tomi dePaola, and Rawn Spearman. Alongside her contributions to the practice of portrait photography, Jacobi also expanded photography as an art form through her development of “photogenics” in the 1950s—a method of selectively using light filtered through glass or other transparent materials to create abstract images and landscapes on photographic paper, without ever actually using a camera.