Seymour Hofstetter - Portraits of West Africa - Revival of a National Exhibition
The Jewish Educational Alliance proudly announces the revival of a 47-year-old photography exhibition—originally shown at the U.S. State Department, Overseas Press Club of New York, Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum of Philadelphia and elsewhere.
In the summer of 1976, Seymour Hofstetter, along with 20 other northern Ohio teachers selected by the American Forum for International Study, participated in a six-week program of African studies. The U.S. Department of Education sponsored the mission under a Hays-Fulbright grant.
Hofstetter, a World War II U.S. Coast Guard combat photographer who became a special education teacher in the Cleveland public schools, served as the study mission’s official photojournalist. The group, traveling under supervision of faculty from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and University of Ghana, visited five West African countries.
Seymour Hofstetter took more than 1000 color slides during the trip. Approximately 70 were selected for the original traveling exhibition that ran from 1977 to 1979.
Seymour’s daughter, Melinda, sorted and selected many of the remarkable photographs that will be showcased at the JEA.
The show originally appeared at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland State University, Ohio State University and other venues before returning to the U.S. Department of Education as part of its celebration of The International Year of the Child.
During World War II, Hofstetter was a combat photographer in the U.S. Coast Guard for five years, serving one tour of duty in the dangerous North Atlantic run and two tours in the South Pacific Marshall Islands and elsewhere. Many of his war photos can be seen at Coast Guard Headquarters, the Coast Guard Academy, U.S. National Archives and National War of the Pacific Museum in Texas.
“After the war and settling down to raise a family in Cleveland and teach, my father continued to give serious attention to photography. He won first prize in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s ‘May Show’ and his photographs also appeared at the Pittsburgh Museum of Art, in magazines such as Vogue, Town and Country, and the two Cleveland daily newspapers, the Plain Dealer and the Press,” Melinda Hofstetter said.
“He brought a very real sensitivity to people that is clearly revealed in his portraits. This came, I think, through an understanding learned by having taught disabled children in downtown Cleveland’s elementary and high schools. He once said he won the confidence of his subjects through, ‘smiling, meaning well, and kindness.’
“I decided to revive my father’s show after almost 50 years because the pictures are too remarkable to be put away forever. I believe anyone who sees them will agree.”