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Jonathan A. Silverman (1950-)

Jonathan Silverman's interest in photography began during his undergraduate days at Oberlin College in Grinnell, Iowa, in the 1970s. A serious amateur photographer himself at that point, he considered pursuing the medium professionally. However, he instead took his B.A. in classics, (graduating magna cum laude from Cornell University in the spring of 1977), moved to New York City. There he followed the lure of the publishing world, becoming a specialist in the marketing of international copyrights at the prestigous and high-powered Scott Meredith Literary Agency, Inc., where he served as Director of Foreign Rights from 1979-1987. Among others, he represented photography critic and Archive Executive Director A. D. Coleman.

In that role Silverman marketed approximately 300 new book properties per year to publishers in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Turkey, Israel, Japan, and elsewhere. He closed an average of 500 contracts per year for book and magazine publishing rights, book club, motion picture rights, radio rights, television rights, and others, and monitored annual foreign revenues of $1 million per year. In the years 1983-85 he was the agency's sole representative at the Frankfurt International Book Fair.

During those years Silverman retained his love of photography, channeling it into researching and writing For The World To See: The Life of Margaret Bourke-White (1983), the first critical biography of this germinal figure in U.S. photojournalism. He was the first to obtain access to Margaret Bourke-White’s voluminous personal files, which she bequeathed to Syracuse University's George Arents Research Library for Special Collections. Published to praiseful reviews in such periodicals as Publishers Weekly, Self, Mademoiselle, Working Woman, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Art in America, this book has unfortunately long since gone out of print. Thereafter Silverman produced other, shorter texts on Bourke-White (see below), and a few on other photo-related subjects.

After leaving the Scott Meredith Agency, Silverman spent a year, 1987-1988, as a full-time student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem, Israel. From 1988-90 he was director of the Jonathan Silverman Literary Agency, Ltd., Tel Aviv, representing Ministry of Defense Publishing House books for worldwide translation rights sales. (During that time he was also sole and exclusive agent for publishing and merchandise rights in Israel and Egypt for the Garfield cartoon character.)

He returned to New York, and from Oct. 1990-April 1991 he served as Associate Publisher and Rights Director for Shapolsky Publishers, in charge of general trade books and Judaica. Since then, he has fulfilled his ambition to become a professional translator of Hebrew texts, and is currently the chairman of Sartaba Publications, which specializes in such work. Sartaba's clients include AIPAC, Washington DC.; Yediot America, New York City; Embassy of Israel, Public Affairs Office, Washington DC; and others.

-- A. D. Coleman

Contact Jonathan Silverman at jsilverman@photocriticism.com.

In the Photography Criticism CyberArchive:


  • "Introduction" to The Taste of War by Margaret Bourke-White (1985)

A Jonathan Silverman Bibliography


For The World To See: The Life of Margaret Bourke-White, with foreword by Alfred Eisenstadt. Viking Press, May, 1983. (Biography with 50,000-word text and 150 duotone reproductions, bibliography, and index.) British edition: Secker & Warburg, August, 1983. Swedish edition: Bra Bocker, May, 1984.

The Taste of War, by Margaret Bourke-White (one-volume edition of Bourke-White's three books on World War II: Shooting The Russian War, 1941; Purple Heart Valley, 1944; Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, 1945). Century Hutchinson, London 1985. Edited and with a new introduction by Jonathan Silverman.


"A Biographical Perspective," in Margaret Bourke-White: The Humanitarian Vision. Catalogue for photographic exhibition at Syracuse University, Lowe Art Gallery, April 24-August 31, 1983. (Exhibition travelled via the auspices of United States Information Agency to eighteen European cities, including Moscow, Stockholm, Bucharest, Bonn, Luxembourg, Athens, Vienna, Belgrade, and others.)

"From Hollinger Box to Bookbinder" (a memoir of my research in the Margaret Bourke-White archives at Syracuse University), Picturescope, Spring 1983.

"The Big Picture" (excerpt from For The World To See), Cornell Alumni News, May, 1983.

"Introduction" to Portrait of Myself by Margaret Bourke-White (first republication of her autobiography since 1963), G. K. Hall, Boston, 1985.

Tzilum Miktzoee, Issue No. 11, Dec. 1988. "2nd Photography Biennale at Ein Harod," p. 16.

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