Portrait of Miss Ben-Yusuf
Although Zaida Ben-Yusuf was principally a commercial photographer who depended on customers to make ends meet, the subject she photographed most often was herself. As a young woman with aspirations of artistic fame and professional success, Ben-Yusuf found that creating self-portraits provided an opportunity to experiment with both the art of portraiture and her own feminine persona. Rendered in a narrow vertical format, this early self-portrait is striking for the costume she wears and the pose she adopts. Few photographers during this period – male or female – devoted such energy to their self-representation. Such images also gave the newly arrived Ben-Yusuf a much-needed identityone that would lesson her sense of displacement and would attract attention to her art. Ben-Yusuf was pleased with this self-portrait, for it became the likeness of her that was most often reproduced and exhibited during her career.
Platinum print, 1898
National Museum of American History, Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution