"Ruth Gruber, Photojournalist" exhibit celebrates the brilliant trailblazer


Ruth Gruber

In her 105 years on the planet, Ruth Gruber didn't half step anything. 

Born in Brooklyn in 1911, Gruber earned a Ph.D. at age 20 from the University of Cologne in German Philosophy, Modern English Literature, and Art History -- the youngest person in the world at that time to complete a doctorate.

By age 24, she was an international foreign correspondent and photojournalist whose life reads like an adventure book. 

She was the first journalist to enter the Soviet Arctic (1935), joined the Roosevelt administration on a trip to Alaska (1942), accompanied Holocaust refugees to America (1944), reported on the Nuremberg trials (1946), and documented the tragedy of the SS Exodus, which was carrying Holocaust survivors and other Jewish immigrants when it was attacked on July 11, 1947, by Britain in international waters; four died, more than 100 were injured, and the survivors were sent to refugee camps in Europe.

Gruber continued her groundbreaking photojournalism through the 1980s, including at the age of 74 when she documented isolated Ethiopian Jewish villages who were rescued from the pro-communist military junta The Derg.

The exhibition Ruth Gruber, Photojournalist, which opens Wednesday, Feb. 7, at the Duderstadt Center Gallery, celebrates 50 years of reportage from this heroic woman. A combination of never-before-exhibited vintage prints will be displayed with contemporary prints from her negatives.

A documentary was made on Gruber when she was 98. The full film runs 73 minutes, but here's a 7-minute excerpt that gives viewers a good idea of Gruber's talent and verve.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

"Ruth Gruber, Photojournalist" runs Feb. 7 to March 12 at the Duderstadt Center, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd, Ann Arbor. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 12-6 pm; the exhibition is free. The opening reception is Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 6 pm.