Juxtapositions: UI's Polumbaum Publishes a Collection of Her Father's Photography

Jun 21, 2016

Before the age of selfies and digital point-and-shoot cameras, photographers carried light meters strapped to their belts and spent hours processing negatives into prints.  Judy Polumbaum remembers those days. 

"Most of my friends had fathers who were engineers, and they would go to work in the morning and come home at night and put up their feet and watch tv," Polumbaum remembers.

Judy with her dad, Ted Polumbaum

"My father would be gone for days at a time, but he also sometimes would just be around. And he had all this stuff, all the trappings of photography all around the house. He had a big studio, and when LIFE would come, we’d look around the photo credits to see if his pictures were in there. I always thought it was kind of cool.  "

She's just published a new book, Juxtapositions: images from the Newseum Ted Polumbaum photo collection, which showcases some of her father's best work that ran in Time, Life, The New York Times and other big name publications. 

Based in Boston, Polumbaum's father Ted was a freelance photo-journalist who left a career as a newspaper reporter when he was blacklisted after testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy era. Judy says her father used the 5th Amendment as a defense when he was called before the committee at age 29.

"He was refusing to talk about his political affiliations and views, and, at the same time, he accused the committee of trampling on the bill of rights, and when I looked up his testimony, I thought he was very brave," she says. 

Polumbaum's career took him to Chile to photograph the socialist social experiment dashed by the 1973 coup, and he also photographed some vital moments in the civil rights movement and took pictures of the Kennedy family. 

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Judy Polumbaum about her father's work and his life. Polumbaum will be giving a reading Tuesday night, June 21 at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City at 7:00 p.m.