This photographer’s work is related to objects and themes in the exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, now on view through August 20, 2017.
Born in upstate New York, Thérèse Bonney (1897-1978), was a photojournalist whose work reflected a wide variety of interests and subjects. She studied at the University of California at Berkeley and Radcliffe College in the 1910s. Bonney immigrated to France in 1919 where she became one of the first ten women to graduate from the Sorbonne and founded the first American illustrated press service in Europe, the Bonney Service, in 1924. She established another career as a wartime photographer in the field during WWII. Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library’s collection of 4,000 Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937 documents her personal observation of the life of Paris in the 1920s and 30’s. The subjects of her photographs ranged from individual objects to interior settings to window displays to major building complexes and focused on the impact of modernism on European design. As see here, the interior of a department store, jewelry, a desk set, and mannequins in a store window featured the designs of popular institutions and new and innovative designers.
Bonney captured images of decorative arts and architecture that are an important visual documentation of little-photographed and now nonexistent subjects and structures from this Art Deco time period in France. Some examples of the diversity of her interests include the interiors of the homes of artists and designers, ceramics and glassware, barbershops, furniture, tapestry, lighting, gardens—the list goes on and on. Drawing from her life in Paris and experience with decorative arts she wrote with her sister Louise Buying antique and modern furniture in Paris. Bonney’s WWII experiences and photographs are chronicled in Europe’s children, 1939 to 1943. Thérèse Bonney was a woman on the forefront of history—in design, architecture and life in Paris of the 20’s and 30’s, and later in the battlefields.
Elizabeth Broman is Reference Librarian at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library.