I did not know of the existence of Julia Pirotte before being made aware of an exhibition at the Shoah Memorial. There is no more impressive place in Paris. The weight of history, the intangible presence of the 75,000 jews deported from France during the war, the solemnity and peace of the place make an impressive location for a photo exhibit. However, Julia Pirotte, as Polish jew, born Golda Perla Diament, has her place here. She was born in Poland, joined the Communist party, went to jail, escaped Poland to land in Belgium where she married Jean Pirotte, a worker and trade union leader. That’s where she met Suzanne Spaak that suggested she should take on photography. After successful studies, she began her career as a photojournalist, taking pictures of Polish miners and in the Baltic republics. When the Second World War broke out, she fled one more time, to Marseille, where she spent the rest of the war. First as a journalist, reporting on the poverty in Marseille, then on the resistant movement against the German occupation. She finally joined the resistance and smuggled weapons and leaflets for them. At the liberation of Marseille, in August 1944, she took back her camera and documented the fights. After the war, she continued, returning to Poland, to report on the reconstruction and noble causes.  She got recognised later, in the 80’s and started to be exhibited in various places. The Shoah Memorial shows more than 100 of her photographs, paying tribute to yet another woman, too long in the shadows of other (male) photographers.  

Pstzowski, one of the first “Polish Stakhanovists” back from France, Poland, 1947 ©Julia Pirotte Musée de la Photographie Charleroi
Three women on the way from Lille to Katowice, Lille, France, 1947 ©Julia Pirotte Institut historique juif de Varsovie
Portrait of Suzanne Spaak, Brussels, Belgium, 1939 ©Julia Pirotte Mémorial de la Shoah
The Battle of Marseille, Marseille, France, August 1944 ©Julia Pirotte La Contemporaine, Bibliothèque. Archives. Musée des Mondes Contemporains
Seated Old Man, Jerusalem, Israel, 1957 ©Julia Pirotte Musée de la Photographie Charleroi