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Nick Yudell, Self-Portrait, St. John's Tech High School, 1931

Shirley Wolch, Panama Apartments, Winnipeg 1934

Mary Ginsburg Reading, 383 Alfred Avenue, Winnipeg, 1932-33

Model Aeroplanes, Northeast Corner of Bannerman and Aikins Street, Winnipeg May 1933

A Visionary Photographer Who Died in World War II Revealed Through A Cache of Unseen Photos-Now at the Jewish Heritage Centre Until Oct 11

Sept 27, 2017

Isadore “Nick” Yudell (1916-1943) was a young Jewish photographer from rural Manitoba who documented the world around him during the Dirty Thirties, and whose work aspires to a modern vision that parallels the art emerging from Europe then. Entering the RAF in 1940, he was sent to Kabrit, Egypt and then Malta to fly missions over Tunisia, and to stop the German supply lines from reaching the Mediterranean. Although he perished in the Western Desert of World War II, his photographs have been brought to life in The Lost Expressionist: Nick Yudell’s Journey in Images, presented at the Jewish Heritage Center of Western Canada, through October 11, 2017. Nick Yudell’s dramatic photographs capture aspects of life, spanning the Jazz Age – when he was 12 and received a camera – and the Great Depression, bridging the 1920’s through 1930’s. His work is a major discovery.

Nick  had an anthropologist’s interests and an artist’s imagination. When he enlisted in 1940, he wrote on his RAF attestation document that he was an amateur photographer who did all of his own work, and that he wanted to open a photography studio when he returned from World War II.Until he joined the RAF in 1940, Nick made self-portraits. These show his process of exploration of the art of the photograph through his evolving self-image.
Nick explored extreme angles and unusual perspectives. He captured his friends and family in character studies and experimental photography. Attracted by dramatic lighting, he created images of compelling mystery that created a film noir effect.  

His portrait of Shirley Wolch is a study of simplicity, allowing her dark eyes and symmetrical features to draw us into her presence.

This portrait of his older sister, Mary Ginsburg, taken in the winter of 1932, reveals his patience, a tender eye, and powerful use of light. 


Nick was intrigued by air flight, making model planes and shooting the airport at Stevenson Field in Winnipeg. Here he plays with the photograph’s depth of field to create an illusion with his model aircraft.  In 1939, the Winnipeg Free Press published a montage of two photographs that he created demonstrating his intent to pursue his work. His notes, and his methods of organization show he used the most current photographic methods.  
 Nick made his own  photography equipment, with the electrical plans for a darkroom. He experimented with different lighting effects, and with unsual double exposures. Self-taught, he sought  access to the latest visual ideas when photography was considered a new art. He read Popular Photography from its first issue in 1937, and Minicam Magazine, remaining in his belongings after his tragic death in January, 1943, when his flight over Tunis was shot down. 
Nick's work was never lost, rather it was  preserved by his cousin, Milton Rabinovitch, who understood it had something of value to offer. He kept Nick's magazines and letters that provide a life in pictures and words -- capturing a time previously hidden and now revealed in  The Lost Expressionist: Nick Yudell's Journey in Images - a hidden cache, a world seen through the daring eye of an unknown photographer, hosted by the Jewish Heritage Center of Western Canada, Asper Campus, 123 Doncaster Street, Winnipeg, (Sept. 8- Oct. 11, 2017).

The Lost Expressionist was created, restored, and art directed by artist Celia Rabinovitch, Ph.D., M.F.A, who employed new media methods, state of the art printmaking, and archival films in the presentation of a powerful visual story, part of western Canadian history and its adventurous spirit. Alan Yusim, who works in human rights, provided further support and direction for this mjaor project, seen in its first iteration at the JHCWC.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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