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Dmitri Kessel

(1902 - 1995)

“Photography can be just a matter of luck.”

Dmitri Kessel was born in the Russian Ukraine on his family’s sugar plantation. His most prized possession as a kid was his Brownie camera which his father gave him when he was 14. When his family’s possessions were confiscated during the Bolshevik Revolution, Dmitri managed to keep his camera, but this too was destroyed when a Russian soldier broke it over Dmitri's head. He escaped from Russia via Rumania and immigrated to America in 1923.

During his 60-year career, Kessel worked as an industrial photographer, a war correspondent and combat photographer, and a photo essayist for LIFE. During World War II, he sailed on convoy escorts in the North Atlantic, covered the landing of American troops in the Aleutian Islands and the British landing in Greece. He also photographed the Greek civil war.

In later years, Kessel lived on the Yangtze River in China for seven months while producing a photo essay for LIFE. He photographed the Andes Mountains in South America and mining operations in Central Africa.

Kessel is world famous for the fidelity of his camera recreations of great art, but was also a tough and adventurous new photographer.

Source: American Jewish Historical Society Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2003).