MISS ZAIDA BEN-YUSUF



ZAIDA BEN-YUSUF, self portrait, c1901


DOB  21st November 1869 London, England - 27th September 1933 Brooklyn, USA

Zaida Ben-Yusuf was born Esther Zeghdda Ben Youseph Nathan in London, England, on 21st November 1869, the eldest daughter of a German-born mother, Anna Kind Ben-Youseph Nathan, from Berlin; and an Algerian father, Mustapha Moussa Ben Youseph Nathan. By 1881, Anna Ben-Yusuf, now separated from her husband and her four daughters (Zaida, aged 11; Heidi aged 8; Leila aged 4 and Pearl aged 3), were living in Ramsgate, where Anna worked as a governess. At some stage in the late 1880s, Anna Ben-Yusuf emigrated to the United States, where by 1891, she had established a milliner's shop on Washington Street in Boston. In 1895, Zaida Ben-Yusuf followed in her mother's footsteps and emigrated to the United States, where she worked as a milliner at 251 Fifth Avenue, New York. She continued this for some time after becoming a photographer, writing occasional articles for Harpers Bazaar and the Ladies Home Journal on millinery.

In 1896, Zaida began to be known as a photographer. In April 1896, two of her pictures were reproduced in The Cosmopolitan Magazine and another study was exhibited in London as part of an exhibition put on by The Linked Ring. She traveled to Europe later that year, where she met with George Davison, one of the co-founders of The Linked Ring, who encouraged her to continue her photography. She exhibited at their annual exhibitions until 1902. In the spring of 1897, Zaida Ben-Yusuf opened her portrait photography studio at 124 Fifth Avenue, New York. On 7 November 1897, the New York Daily Tribune ran an article on Zaida Ben-Yusuf's studio and her work creating advertising posters, which was followed by another profile in Frank Leslie's Weekly on 30 December. Through 1898, she became increasingly visible as a photographer, with ten of her works in the National Academy of Design-hosted 67th Annual Fair of the American Institute, where her portrait of actress Virginia Earle won her third place in the Portraits and Groups class. During November 1898, Zaida and Frances Benjamin Johnston held a two-woman show of their work at the Camera Club of New York.

In 1899, Zaida met with F. Holland Day in Boston and was photographed by him. She relocated her studio to 578 Fifth Avenue and exhibited in a number of exhibitions, including the second Philadelphia Photographic Salon. She was also profiled in a number of publications, including an article on female photographers in The American Amateur Photographer and a long piece in The Photographic Times in which Sadakichi Hartmann described her as an "interesting exponent of portrait photography". 1900 saw Zaida Ben-Yusuf and Johnston assemble an exhibition on American women photographers for the Universal Exposition in Paris. Zaida had five portraits in the exhibition, which traveled to Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Washington, D.C. She was also exhibited in Holland Day's exhibition, The New School of American Photography, for the Royal Photographic Society in London and had four photographs selected by Alfred Stieglitz for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, Scotland.

In 1901, Zaida Ben-Yusuf wrote an article, "Celebrities Under the Camera", for the Sunday Evening Post, where she described her experiences with her sitters. By this stage she had photographed Grover Cleveland, Franklin Roosevelt and Leonard Wood, amongst others. For the September issue of Metropolitan Magazine she wrote another article, "The New Photography – What It Has Done and Is Doing for Modern Portraiture", where she described her work as being more artistic than most commercial photographers, but less radical than some of the better-known art photographers. The Ladies Home Journal that November declared her to be one of the "foremost women photographers in America", as she began the first of a series of six illustrated articles on "Advanced Photography for Amateurs" in the Saturday Evening Post.Zaida Ben-Yusuf was listed as a member of the first American Photographic Salon when it opened in December 1904, although her participation in exhibitions was beginning to drop off. In 1906, she showed one portrait in the third annual exhibition of photographs at Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, the last known exhibition of her work in her lifetime.

Zaida Ben-Yusuf took a post with the Reed Fashion Service in New York City in 1924 and lectured at local department stores on fashion related subjects. In 1926, she was appointed style director for the Retail Millinery Association of New York, an organization for which she later became director. By 1930, census records showed that Zaida had married a textile designer, Frederick J. Norris. She died on the 27th September 1933, in the Methodist Episcopal Hospital in Brooklyn.