Photography has been a lifelong constant for Judy Glickman Lauder. She is the daughter of noted Pictorialist photographer Irving Bennett Ellis, and while growing up in California, she viewed the world through her father’s camera lens, often accompanying him on photographic field trips, spending time with him in the darkroom, and meeting his friends and colleagues, including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
It was all but inevitable that Judy would pick up a camera and follow in her father’s footsteps. Like her father before her, Judy received the Fellowship distinction of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, the highest honor the organization bestows. Judy has been exhibiting her work extensively since the 1970s, and her photographs are represented in many private collections and public institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles’ J. Paul Getty Museum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Although she does work with color digital photography, her preference is to photograph on film and in black and white.
“My own work is very personal,” she says. “I work alone and keep it simple, working with film, natural and available light, and one assistant who helps me in the dark room.”
Despite her artistic pursuits, Judy never thought she would become a collector. However, early on, she would often go to galleries, museums, and auctions to look at what was being shown and soon picked up pieces that interested her, especially portraits and black-and-white images. Now her collection amounts to more than 700 works and resides at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, where she lived with her late husband of 54 years, Albert Glickman.
Judy now resides part-time on Palm Beach with her husband, Leonard Lauder, who is the chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, and their dog, Kodak. Through March 10, visitors to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach can get a glimpse into her practice and collection in the exhibition “Presence: The Photography Collection of Judy Glickman Lauder.”
“I love to exhibit my collection, and I am very excited that it is at the Norton,” Judy says.
The Portland Museum of Art organized the exhibition, which features approximately 110 photographs by more than 50 artists, including some of the twentieth century’s most influential and revered practitioners, such as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Imogen Cunningham, Susan Meiselas, and Gordon Parks. Judy’s photographs are also represented in the show.
When Anjuli Lebowitz, the Judy Glickman Lauder Associate Curator of Photography at the Portland Museum of Art, joined the museum, plans were already in place to develop an exhibition of the works in the Judy Glickman Lauder Collection. She began the process by meeting with Judy to talk about what drew her to certain pictures, identify the photos that Judy felt were most important, and fill out certain sections that spoke to her.
“What she told me was that she collected what she was drawn to,” Lebowitz says of Judy. “She picks pictures based on how they make her feel. They have to make her feel something. I really wanted to bring that out in the exhibition. I told her that I hoped that, even though [viewers] may not remember that it was her collection, they would feel like they’d had a cup of coffee with her at the end and got to explore all the different emotions and experiences from the pictures.”
Lebowitz notes that the exhibition is divided into four sections, each evoking a sense of “presence” in its own way. One such group is “Specters of History,” which primarily comprises Judy’s images of former Nazi labor and extermination camps. Through the powerful themes of her photography, Judy is an advocate for human rights and social justice, and the Holocaust is a subject that she has immersed herself in. She has done photographic work in Eastern Europe, where the Holocaust still haunts the towns and villages of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine. “I give talks to schools about the importance of educating young people on the Holocaust, especially at this time,” she adds.
Judy tells of one of her major projects that took her to Denmark to create an exhibition dealing with the Danish rescue of the country’s Jewish citizens during World War II. She was able to interview and photograph many survivors, rescuers, and members of the resistance. Aperture published a number of these photographs in a 2018 book titled Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception. These photographs were also the subject of two traveling exhibitions, “Holocaust: The Presence of the Past and Resistance” and “Rescue: Denmark’s Response to the Holocaust,” which have been shown at more than 200 institutions around the world.
“Judy is such a treasure,” says Lebowitz. “Her work is so powerful and important given our current world environment. Her artistic call to remember, honor, and think about how our past lives in our present is absolutely vital.”
Beyond her photography, Judy’s conscience and integrity are reflected in her and Leonard’s involvement in humanitarian and philanthropic causes. Leonard is known for his deep commitment to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, for which he serves as honorary chair. He is also the co-chairman and co-founder of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, and he is involved with a variety of New York cultural institutions. Judy has a personal connection to many art and Jewish-related causes as well as the Michael J. Fox Foundation and mental health advocacy; as part of that advocacy, she is involved with hospitals mostly in Maine, including Spring Harbor Hospital. Both Leonard and Judy are founders of the Glickman Lauder Center of Excellence in Autism and Developmental Disorders in Portland, Maine. “Giving in every way—not just writing checks but helping someone do something—makes us very grateful and really happy,” she says.
When asked if she still collects, Judy replies: “Oh yes, I bid for something today.”
She has long followed contemporary photographers—citing Danny Lyons and Sally Mann as two favorites—and she continues to watch out for emerging artists. “What attracts me is subjective,” she says. “My exhibition is called ‘Presence,’ and I find presence in the works of these photographers. The photographs in my collection were mostly created in the twentieth century, and prices are high now. About two years ago, a small Man Ray black-and-white photograph went for $12 million.”
As for budding collectors without $12 million to spare, Judy suggests looking at the work of young photographers who might still be in art school. “There is so much that’s affordable,” she says. “There’s an exciting treasure trove out there; poke about and see what you can find. I look forward to seeing where photography is going.”