How did the son of a Jewish Czechoslovakian industrialist become a photographer of Eretz Yisrael?
Rudi (Rudolph) Weissenstein was born in Czechoslovakia in 1910. He father had a photography lab that he used during his free time and when Rudi was 8 his father infected him with the photography bug by giving him his first camera. Rudi's first language was German, and his home was steeped in European culture while still being a Zionist household. In 1928, he was accepted to the graphische Lehr – und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna, where he spent three years studying graphics and photography as well as humanist subjects. In 1931, Rudi began his photography career as a photographer for the newsletter put out by the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague, and at the European Center for Photography there. It was there that he learned importance of archiving and preserving negatives, subjects that were covered during his studies in Vienna as well.
Faced with the anti-Semitism he had encountered during his studies in high school, Rudi's interest in Zionism, which he had first encountered as a child, grew. To the dismay of his parents, who had intended him to go into the hotelier business in Switzerland, Rudi Weissenstein immigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1935. Immediately after his arrival, Weissenstein began to work as an independent photographer. In Tel Aviv he met Miriam, who became his wife, and who worked alongside him as a partner, not only in building a family, but also in the development of their business.
Rudi Weissenstein took photographs all over the country for national institutions and their various economic projects. In doing so, he became attached to the Zionist publicity apparatus overseas that relied, for the most part, on photographic documentation of the development of the Jewish national homeland. Daily life in Tel Aviv and its accelerated growth during those years were documented by his camera on an almost daily basis.
In 1940 Rudi Weissenstein opened the Pri-Or Photo House at the top of Allenby Street, not far from Mughrabi Square. In order to open the business he banded together with two partners. Over the years, he separated from his partners and became the sole owner of the Photo House. In the 40 years that Rudi was active at the Photo House, he and Miriam diligently built an archive full of his photographs accompanied by written documentation in an organized work log. Over the years, the bulk of the Photo House's activity- still in its original location on Allenby Street- moved from news photography to cultivating the archive and selling historical photographs. After Rudi's death in 1992, Miriam continued to develop the archive for another twenty years. After her death in 2011, their grandson, Ben Peter, took the reins of the Photo House, a business whose like has ceased to exist in this day and age. Even today, the Photo House remains an example of a living monument to a family and national legacy.
Pri-or PhotoHouse Website: http://www.pri-or.com