Adolfo Kaminsky, autoportrait à l’âge de 19 ans, Paris, 1944
Adolfo Kaminsky, a member of the Resistance and a brilliant forger, spent thirty years of his life producing counterfeit identity papers to save lives. He discovered photography during the Second World War reproducing official stamps for forged identity cards.
With a selection of seventy photographs, the mahJ is paying tribute to a remarkable photographer whose work has been largely ignored due to his illegal activities and partly clandestine existence.
Adolfo Kaminsky was born into a family of Russian Jewish émigrés in Buenos Aires in 1925. When his family moved to France in 1932, he went to work as an apprentice dyer aged fifteen and learnt the rudiments of chemistry. He was interned with his family at Drancy in 1943, but was freed due to his Argentinian citizenship. He joined the Resistance at seventeen, using his knowledge of chemistry to become an expert in forging official documents, working successively for the Jewish Resistance (the Éclaireurs israélites de France, “La Sixième” and the Organisation juive de combat) then for the French military secret services until 1945.
After the war he forged identity papers for the Haganah to facilitate clandestine emigration to Palestine, and for Lehi, the Zionist paramilitary organisation violently opposed to the British Mandate. Known as “the technician” in the 1950s and 60s, he forged documents for the Algerian National Liberation Front’s networks in France, South American revolutionaries, Third World liberation movements and opponents of the dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece, endangering his life and making numerous sacrifices to support these causes. Ever-faithful to his humanist ideals, he refused to work for the violent groups that emerged in Europe in the 1970s.
In the thousands of photographs that Adolfo Kaminsky took after the Liberation we see his chiaroscuro vision of his world, a universe of workers, lovers in lamp-lit streets, second-hand goods dealers, shop-window mannequins, dislocated dolls and bearded men... From the Saint-Ouen flea market to the neons of Pigalle, he captured fleeting looks, solitary figures, the city lights, the elegant and those living on the margins of society.
Curator : Nicolas Feuillie, mahJ
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Adolfo Kaminsky. Changer la donne
Éditions Cent Mille Milliards
D’une part le secret, la clandestinité, la vie risquée avec mort à la clé, la volonté de tromper l’ennemi, l’harassante falsification des identités, la fabrication des faux papiers, le triomphe de l’imitation indétectable… De l’autre, la photographie, la quête de l’instantané qui se confond avec la recherche de la vérité, celle d’un lieu, d’un visage, d’un paysage, ces clichés, éclairs d’un regard perspicace, pur et généreux, travail non plus de reproduction mais d’invention du réel.
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