Shimon Rudolph Weissenstein was born in 1910 in the city of Iglau in Czechoslovakia. From 1928 to 1931, he studied at the Kunsthochschule in Vienna, where he expanded his knowledge in the fields of graphic design and printing, chemistry, photography, retouching, optics and archive management.
In January 1936 he immigrated to Palestine. Shortly after his arrival, he chanced upon Miriam Arnstein in Tel Aviv. Three years after their meeting Miriam and Rudi got married, and in 1940 they established the internationally renowned photography studio “Pri-Or Photohouse (“Zalmania”).
As a photojournalist by training, Rudi Weissenstein perceived himself as a quintessential press photographer, a field in which he had gained experience during his early years of work in Prague. He was an independent photographer and wanted to set up an archive. The circumstances of the time and place furnished him with fascinating photographic materials.
From his arrival to the country and till the establishment of Israel in 1948, Weissenstein operated in every possible field: he followed media coverage of news events from the country, which were mainly disseminated by the Jewish Agency, the JNF, Keren Hayesod Foundation Fund, WIZO, etc. in the Jewish communities overseas. He traveled throughout the country and photographed new settlements, the fifth wave of immigration, the civil unrest in Tel Aviv, the developing construction in the country, parades and processions, art events in all creative fields, industry, cityscapes and pastoral vistas, cafés and cinemas, urban life, national propaganda, immigrant ships, portraits, the first concert of the Palestine Philharmonic conducted by Toscanini, street scenes, and so on.
After the establishment of the State, Weissenstein continued to photograph the unique atmosphere in the nascent country: the first anniversary celebrations of the immigrants who settled in Jaffa, Communist Party gatherings, May Day demonstrations, pictures from the transit camps (ma’abarot), and the construction boom throughout the country. The government’s food rationing policy and its side-effects were likewise perpetuated by Weissenstein. He documented the steel workers’ strike, Knesset elections, demonstrations, the job hunting market in the city streets, job seekers in the employment offices, shops for rationed provisions, relief work, road paving, construction and industry, inauguration of the train station in Tel Aviv, the opening of the first supermarket, numerous cultural events, concerts of the Philharmonic Orchestra with the greatest conductors and soloists who arrived from overseas, fashion shows, the inauguration of Tel Aviv Museum’s Helena Rubinstein Pavilion, etc.
In this period his photographs started appearing on postage stamps and banknotes; they were awarded various prizes and merit certificates, and were presented in exhibitions locally and internationally.
Toward the 1960s he used to go to Jaffa to capture the city’s romantic-mysterious facet, with its churches and alleys, the mosque, the Clock Tower, the fishermen returning from sea at nightfall, and the Tel Aviv shoreline and promenade. In the wake of the Six Day War in 1967, Weissenstein photographed landscapes and local figures in East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Nablus, Hebron, and Jericho.
A comprehensive perusal of Weissenstein’s archive illustrates his being a total and complete photojournalist, who left behind a record of rare and fascinating chapters of an Eretz-Israeli reality.
Rudi passed away in 1992 in Tel-Aviv.