The Long Island University Brooklyn Campus Library Media Center Newsletter 


We love movies, among other things.

November 2010, issue 58


Digging Deeper:
Ringl and Pit

Recently I was leafing through a catalog that landed in my mailbox, and a title caught my eye: Ringl and Pit, a documentary about two women, Grete Stern and Ellen Auerbach, who started their own advertising photography studio in Berlin in 1929.  It looked like a remarkable little film, featuring interviews with the two women and lots of archival footage, and it was directed by Juan Mandelbaum, a fine documentary filmmaker whose name was still rattling around in my head because we'd recently acquired his 2008 film Our Disappeared, about political oppression in Argentina in the 1970's and 80's.


Something about it was nagging me until I realized that maybe we already had a copy of Ringl and Pit in our collection.  It rang a bell with me, and how many videos could there be with that odd name.  I went to the shelves and lo and behold: there it was on VHS.  (I know, I know, "VHS, VHS, it may as well be a nickelodeon."  But the fact is, there are still lots of great titles in our collections only available on VHS, and we have the machines to watch them with, so there is no excuse for not availing yourself of any of the rare titles in our collection.  We hope to be able to upgrade this title to DVD soon.)


So, naturally, I popped the tape in and my curiosity was rewarded - it is a marvelous little film, a great story, and it's anchored by the presence of the two remarkable women themselves, who are frank and engaging interviews on a host of subjects, from work to politics to sex and more.  And they also happened to be witnesses to extraordinary times.  If they had been guests on the Tonight Show like Alice Neel was near the end of her extraordinary life (Johnny Carson loved her!), they'd have become bona fide media stars.


The film also includes lots of lovingly long shots of their work, which they also talk about frankly, and which you can also see on their official Flickr photostream


From the website for the film:

A captivating portrait of Grete Stern and Ellen Auerbach, two pioneering artists who met in Berlin in 1929 and started the "ringl + pit" studio to do advertising photography. Full of humor and vitality at 91 and 89 years old, they reflect on their work, their lifelong friendship, and what being a "New Woman" was like 70 years ago.

Challenging the expectations of their Jewish middle-class parents, Stern and Auerbach opened their studio in 1929, in the midst of an exciting time of social liberation, expanding mass media, economic upheaval and political change. Stern also spent a year at the legendary Bauhaus school. "ringl + pit" soon won international prizes, for work that subverted the images of women in mainstream advertising.

But when the Nazis came to power, Grete and Ellen fled, with Ellen eventually settling in
New York and Grete in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ellen photographed during her travels and later worked with emotionally disturbed youth. Grete became one of the most influential figures in Argentine photography.

We recommend this film highly, which touches so vividly on so many fascinating issues of the 20th century, and from a first-hand perspective.  It is a warm, moving film. 



The LIU Brooklyn Campus Library Media Center

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Media Center Staff:
Patrick Jewell,  Media Staff  (718) 488-3392
Lisa Rivera,  Media Staff  (718) 780-4378

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