'Justapositions': Daughter honors father's striking photographs in new book
Judy Polumbaum took on an ambitious project to highlight her father’s legacy as a photojournalist. Polumbaum, a professor emerita in the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, combed through Ted Polumbaum’s extensive body of work and selected images to present in pairs, creating combinations the photographer would never have had occasion to consider.
The result is “Juxtapositions: Images from the Newseum Ted Polumbaum photo collection.” Polumbaum created her own publishing house, Gao House Press, to bring the book to fruition, offering viewers an excellent opportunity to engage with the work of an outstanding photographer.
Ted Polumbaum worked as a freelance photojournalist for nearly 50 years. His assignments for publications like “Life,” “Time,” and “The New York Times Sunday Magazine,” gave him the opportunity to capture images of some of the most important and intriguing events and figures of the latter half of the 20th century.
His daughter could have organized her book in any number of ways — chronologically or thematically or geographically — but her decision to find photographs that seem to be in conversation with one another is inspired.
She pairs, for example, a photograph of Robert Kennedy laying a hand on his brother, Ted, while the latter was recovery from injuries sustained in a plane crash with an image of a bone priest in India offering a healing touch. We are invited to consider these disparate yet similar images with more care than we might were either on the page alone. Time after time, Polumbaum found perfect matches — sometimes poignant, sometimes whimsical, and always striking.
In the book’s afterward, Polumbaum recounts her father’s refusal to capitulate to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1953. The episode, as the afterward makes clear, was emblematic of the photographer’s approach to life. His daughter honors his life and his work with this thoughtfully curated and beautiful book.
What: Judy Polumbaum discusses “Juxtapositions”
Where: Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday