German photographer Lotte Jacobi '74H is known for taking pictures of some of the most famous faces of the 20th century: Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, philosopher Thomas Mann, novelist Theodore Dreiser, painter Marc Chagall and the elusive J.D. Salinger. When she died in 1990, Jacobi gave 47,000 negatives from her life’s work to UNH.
On Jan. 22, the University Museum’s Special Collections will unveil Jacobi's photos of Salinger, famed author of “Catcher in the Rye,” that have rarely, if ever, been seen. The photographs are part of a tribute to Salinger’s 100th birthday. Seventeen of the portraits were recently digitized and are available for licensing through UNHInnovation. Six will be on display during the celebration, and one will be included in the larger exhibit of Jacobi's work, opening in the museum Jan. 24.
“The collection is extremely important historically, and it’s a significant responsibility and cost for UNH to properly care for it ... Licensing the images is the vehicle UNH is using to support and share the collection and to make it sustainable over time."
All of the Salinger photographs were taken during a single sitting; differences come in nuances and Jacobi’s expertise in drawing out her subjects. Salinger was known for his reclusive nature; few photos of him exist today. Licensing of the black-and-white images through UNHInnovation will allow them to be used, among other ways, by magazines, book publishers, museums and in films. Images from the Jacobi collection also are available for licensing through UNHInnovation for both private and professional use.
“The collection is extremely important historically, and it’s a significant responsibility and cost for UNH to properly care for it,” says Elizabeth Sheckler '10 of UNHInnovation. “Jacobi took astoundingly high-quality images of historical figures and situations that are, in some cases, the only ones of their kind. When she bequeathed the collection to us, most of her images were in photo negative format — nearly 50,000 of them. Licensing the images is the vehicle UNH is using to support and share the collection and to make it sustainable over time.”
Sheckler says some of the Jacobi images were volatile and had to be sent to specialists for digitization to keep them from deteriorating.
“The more we license the photos, the more revenue we generate, the more an investment can be made to digitize the collection efficiently and responsibly, which produces the end goal of getting Jacobi’s images — many historically unique — into the world for public use and viewing,” Sheckler says.
Salinger and Jacobi both spent their final years in small New Hampshire towns, Salinger in Cornish and Jacobi in Deering. While Salinger was a recluse who stopped publishing in 1965, Jacobi was active well into her 80s. She served as a New Hampshire representative to the 1976 Democratic Convention, and when she forgot to register for the 1980 convention, attended as a press photographer for the Concord Monitor. Her work was last displayed at UNH in 1996. She received an honorary degree from UNH in 1974.