He was a contemporary of Alfred Eisenstaedt and Erich Salomon, and just as smart and foolhardy, but today he is not nearly as famous as his legendary colleagues. The American James Abbe published superb photo documentaries from Stalin’s Moscow, about the last years of the Weimar Republic, and from the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War.
Obsessed and fearless, Abbe got close to the dictators of Europe — Hitler, Mussolini, Franco. In 1932, he was the only American given permission to photograph Stalin. Photographs of the rulers of the world became his specialty — “Shooting dictators is great fun!”
In addition, Abbe made contact with Russian film directors and artists such as Sergej Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov und Vsevolod Meyerhold, indulging his passion for film, theater, dance and, above all, whatever happened backstage. Many of his pictures, portraits of Rudolph Valentino, Mae West, Josephine Baker and Charlie Chaplin, have become icons of modern photography. Others, like his portrait of Thomas Mann, remained unknown until their recent discovery. This book provides a cross-section of the rich catalogue of Abbe’s work.