Lendvai-Dircksen was a technically conservative photographer who started her career in the first decade of the twentieth century. During the 1920s and ’30s, she worked mostly as an independent photographer out of her own studio, specializing in portraiture. During the same period, she started working on a documentary project entitled Das deutsche Volksgesicht (The Face of the German Folk). Based on the assumption of typically German features, this project looked for an original and “pure” expression of rural life in Germany. The compliance with National Socialist blood and soil ideology is already discernible here, and Lendvai-Dircksen confirmed her affinity to this ideology when the Volksgesicht was published in its first book version in 1932 (with many more iterations to come), including an introductory text authored by the photographer herself. Though reactionary and conservative in tone and technique, she employed a modern image-language for her type-portraits, seizing the achievements of the seemingly objective style of Neue Sachlichkeit: the sharp rendition of facial features, modulated by light and shadow, set into narrow-cut frames and against blurred backgrounds, which sometimes provide a hint of rural location. It may appear irritating at first sight that Oskar Maria Graf’s most venerated picture of his mother largely follows this visual syntax—one that is closely associated with the notorious, exclusionary, regressive notion of Heimat, the predicament at the very heart of the political ideology which ultimately led to his migration.
However, this is only part of the ambivalent story of modernism during this period. Allan Sekula has argued that “these techniques for reading the body’s signs seemed to promise both egalitarian and authoritarian results.” This indeed becomes clear when we look at the second prominent example of portrait photography of the Weimar years, at first glance similar in concept and aesthetics, yet very different in intention. August Sander also started his portrait series, Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century), in the 1910s. It was a long-term and large-scale project, aiming at the production of over forty photographic portfolios containing photographs which were to present different walks of life, ultimately to be understood as a cross-section through a contemporary reality shaped by social conditions, not by racial or biological determinism. Sander’s work is characterized by the gaze of a comparative, taxonomically categorizing physiognomy and ethnography, and thus not free from ambivalence. But Sander understood it explicitly as an instrument of liberal social education. Highly estimated by contemporaries such as Walter Benjamin and Alfred Döblin, Sander’s work later came into conflict with National Socialist ideology. Andy Jones has provided a reading of Sander’s portraits which supports my observation that they are very close in spirit to the narrative work of Oskar Maria Graf. According to Jones, Sander wants to show social truth, yet this truth is not a fixed, unchangeable entity: “Crucially, Sander’s peasants clearly do not conform to the Nazi mythologization of them as eternal and unchanging. […] these are images of change.” Accordingly, his “sitters are not objectified, but retain their status as subjects.” They maintain an active agency within the photographic project’s overall aim to spell out differences of class and life experience.
Conceptually, they thus show an even closer relation to the vernacular portrait of Therese Graf. This portrait’s author must have been aware of the photographic state-of-the-art. In style, it clearly speaks to the period eye of the 1920s and ’30s. Yet its significance only fully unfolds when considered together with its perception history. This history includes its journey as part of Oskar Maria Graf’s migration, its relation to and function for the novel he wrote, and its position within his larger image archive and mind-map. It is this context of handling it, placing it, and looking at it through the lens of the migratory experience which activates the potential of the image within a history of modern connectivity.
Histories from Below as “Strong History”?
Roughly twenty years after the publication of The Life of My Mother, more than twenty-five years after her death and the beginning of his exile, Oskar Maria Graf posed for a set of author’s photographs in his New York study (fig. 7). In three of these photos, he seems to hint at the ambivalent, yet still strong connection to his origins by putting himself—his own portrait—in relation to his mother’s. The framed photograph of Therese Graf appears again here; in fact, it may even have been deliberately moved to a particular spot on the wall, next to a portrait of Leo Tolstoy, in order to feature prominently as an image within the image. The moment is crucial for Graf, as it is around the time of his first postwar visit to his home country, when he decided for good not to move back to Bavaria, but to remain the somewhat reluctant New Yorker he had become in the meantime. By that time he had become an American citizen, and an exponent of the postwar literary scene in Germany. Since 1956, for instance, he was a member of the Academy of Arts in West Berlin. However, as a convinced pacifist, he also remained disenchanted by the postwar world order, and by the German failure to come to terms with the past. It was in this late period of his life, when it became clear that he would be an émigré for life, that he also underlined how the memories of his homeland began to fade, all but those related to his mother, which, as he claimed, remained as colorful and tangible as ever. It can be assumed that much of this is owed to the very tangible presence of her portrait as an object which had persisted through the years, and thus continued to embody an encounter between the first and the second life of a migrant, as it were.
Interestingly, there is another literary testimony to the portrait of Therese Graf which directly addresses this experience of rupture, of a gap, in which the presence of the photograph becomes a linking element. In the 1953 poem Mein Zimmer (My Room), Graf speaks about the “decoration” on his wall, the portraits of Marx, Mann, Goethe, Lincoln, and Lenin, and “in between, commonplace and without much ado, and yet the crowning thing, hangs my old mother.” He continues to emphasize how he now understands his mother (respectively, her photograph) as the key that connects the diverse, often seemingly arbitrary elements of his life, and puts everything into a larger, “eternal” perspective of humanity. While this lyrical statement is not free from sentimental idealization of motherhood’s metaphorical “fertility,” its main point is the connection between his “commonplace” mother and the larger fabric of history.
In her considerations on “photography as strong history,” Elizabeth Edwards explains that the “work of photographs within the authentic, emotional, instructive or symbolic is premised in the power of the indexical trace… the sense of ‘it was there.’” Edwards looks at photographs and their function for nation-building in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, thus she is mainly interested in the functions and rhetoric of institutionalized archives and images which can be interpreted as a “dominant force in the visual politics” of national grand narratives. The example of Oskar Maria Graf and his mother’s photograph directs our attention towards the vernacular power of photographs for the biographies and narratives of those who are driven out of the nation, become displaced. In fact, as Edwards also emphasizes, “It is important to remember that these histories and their photographs exist not only in public spaces and in overtly instrumental relationships, but also… in private spaces, consumed in albums, magazines, lantern slides, and even postcards—banal markers of wider public discourses.”
It is exactly in this sense that Therese Graf’s portrait has come a long way since the day it was taken, probably while she was sitting on a bench in front of her house near Lake Starnberg—an insignificant, random moment in the life of a woman who, by all the usual standards of historical importance, was not invested with much agency beyond her immediate local environment. The photograph is the portrait of an individual set against a particular local background, and thus it captures a person, a moment, a location “as it existed” at a certain point in time. In this respect, its indexicality may of course seem obvious on the surface: Oskar Maria Graf certainly did not need a reminder of the existence of his mother. However, the further we move away from this moment of taking the photograph, passing through the exile history which was to follow, and even beyond this, up to present, the photograph also gains meaning on a more abstract level. In the sense of “strong history,” it is the visual proof not only for the existence but also for the experiences of a certain social layer, a generation and a notion of passing of time. The photograph is thus a strong, not only illustrative, indicator for a history of migration. This history is not only iconographically embodied in the face of the aged woman; it is also conveyed in the itinerary and perception of the photograph as an image and as an object: as much as the wrinkles on her face are traces of her lifespan, the photography itself remains a trace of her existence. As an object, once placed on a wall in New York City, now wrapped up in an archive box in Munich (fig. 8), it speaks of an itinerary of both loss and change. This is how Therese Graf’s photographic portrait became entangled with a history of modernity and migration, and thus gained its global agency. It makes a point for the function of photographs constituting “strong histories” of migration.
Eva-Maria Troelenberg is chair of modern and contemporary art history at Utrecht University. Her main fields of interest include cross-cultural art history, visual histories of exile and migration, and the global history of museums and collections. She has taught transcultural and Islamic art history as a visiting professor at LMU Munich and at the University of Zurich. From 2011 to 2018 she was head of the Max Planck Research Group “Objects in the Contact Zone – The Cross-Cultural Lives of Things” at Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – MPI. Her work has been awarded with the Heinrich Wölfflin Prize and the Hochschulpreis der Landeshauptstadt München, and she was a fellow of the Munich Centre for Global History.
 Ulrich Dittmann and Waldemar Fromm, Oskar Maria Graf. Rebellischer Weltbürger, kein bayerischer Nationaldichter (Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 2017), 134–135. For the biography and context of Oskar Maria Graf, see also Ulrich Kaufmann, O.M. Graf. Rebell – Erzähler – Weltbürger. Studien und Materialien. Unter Mitarbeit von Detlef Ignasiak (Munich: P. Kirchheim, 1994); Stiftung Buch-, Medien- und Literaturhaus München, ed., Oskar Maria Graf: Rebell, Weltbürger, Erzähler (Munich: Stiftung Buch-, Medien- und Literaturhaus, 2017).
 “Oskar Maria Graf: “Rebel, Global Citizen, Storyteller,” accessed August 15, 2019, https://www.dnb.de/EN/Ueber-uns/Presse/ArchivPM2019/20190327_OskarMariaGraf.html.
 Oskar Maria Graf, Wir sind Gefangene. Ein Bekenntnis (Munich: dtv, 1988).
 Stiftung Literaturhaus, Oskar Maria Graf, 36.
 Ibid., 72–73.
 My use of the term “archive” in this context is related to the concept of “archive thinking” as it has been critically expounded in Knut Ebeling and Stephan Günzel, eds., Archivologie. Theorien des Archivs in Wissenschaft, Medien und Künsten (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2009). However, it does not remain focused on the notion of institutionalized archives, but rather takes into account a more general relation between cultural memory and visual practices of storage and compilation (on this aspect, see Ebeling and Günzel, Archivologie, 10–13).
 Graf’s estate and related documents (as well as his mortal remains) subsequently returned to the city of Munich. The desk, along with a few items from this study, is currently on display in the Monacensia Literaturarchiv’s exhibition, while the archive itself preserves the largest part of his literary legacy. For the purpose of this essay, I have consulted the entire photographic collection as well as archive numbers Bre-OMG1, Dd 41, Dd42, Dd 43, Dd 45, Dd 46. Complimentary to this, I have looked at photographic archive material related to Graf in the Bavarian State Library. These photographs mostly refer to the first visit Graf paid to his home country after the war, yet they also contain a series of photographs which document his New York study: NL Oskar Maria Graf, BSB Handschriftenabteilung, ANA 440. This essay is a first venture into this material, which is partly familiar to readers and biographers of Oskar Maria Graf, but to my knowledge has never been looked at systematically from the point of view of visual studies.
 The archive material in the Bavarian State Library provides some hints that the Graf family had photographs taken by the Munich studio of Lucian Reiser around this time, yet this is a trace which needs to be followed in a larger study.
 Oskar Maria Graf, The Life of My Mother (New York: Howell, Soskin, 1940); 1st German edition: Oskar Maria Graf, Das Leben meiner Mutter (Munich: Verlag Kurt Desch, 1946).
 Kaufmann, O.M. Graf, 41
 See, for example, Oskar Maria Graf, Das Leben meiner Mutter, 8th ed. (Berlin: Ullstein Buchverlage, 2017).
 It would be an interesting project to look into the relation between Graf’s literary realism and notions of reality and narrative-making as negotiated in the larger photographic archive of his estate; however, this would go beyond the limits of this short essay.
 Graf, Leben meiner Mutter (2017), no page.
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (New York: Hill & Wang, 1981).
 On this aspect, see also Peter Geimer, Theorien der Fotografie zur Einführung (Hamburg: Junius Verlag, 2009), 136.
 Sabine Friese-Oertmann shows the nexus between social realism and worker’s photography as a transnational phenomenon of rising importance since the mid-nineteenth century; see Sabine Friese-Oertmann: Arbeiter in Malerei und Fotografie des 19. Jahrhunderts. Deutschland, Großbritannien, USA (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2017), on photography esp. 205–231.
 Giorgio Agamben, “Beyond Human Rights,” Open 15 (2008 [Italian original 1993]): 90–95; Hannah Arendt, “We Refugees,” Menorah Journal 1 (1943): 69–77.
 T. J. Demos, The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2013), esp. 3–4.
 This was the underlying premise of the conference “Encounters: Handling, Placing and Looking at Photographs in Relation to Migration,” which I co-organized with Costanza Caraffa and Anna Sophia Messner at Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut in 2017. Results of this conference will be published as a special issue of the Journal for History, Culture and Modernity, and as an online exhibition of the Photothek of Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence: “Encounters: Migrants * Photographers * Artists * Activists,” accessed September 9, 2019, https://www.khi.fi.it/en/aktuelles/ausstellungen/2019-06-encounters.php. This conference was very much premised on the idea of the materiality of photographic images, as put forward in Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart, eds., Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images (London/New York: Routledge, 2004).
 See, for instance, Sissy Helff and Stephanie Michels, eds., Global Photographies: Memory, history, archives (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2018). On the myth of photography as a “universal language,” see also Allan Sekula, “The Traffic in Photographs,” Art Journal 41, no. 1 (1981): 15–25, esp.16.
 For some comprehensive positions on the oeuvre of Lendvai-Dircksen in the context of her time, see Frank Blask and Thomas Friedrich, eds., Menschenbild und Volksgesicht. Positionen zur Porträtfotografie im Nationalsozialismus (Berliner Blätter Ethnographische und ethnologische Beiträge, Sonderheft 36, 2005); Franziska Schmidt, “Die Fotobücher von Erna Lendvai-Dircksen zwischen 1931 und 1944,” in Fotogeschichte 116, no. 30 (2010): 45–58. For her biography and further involvement in racist and eugenicist image-politics, see esp. the contribution by Maureen Grimm, “Leben und Werk,” in Blask and Friedrich, Menschenbild, 39–48.
 Erna Lendvai-Dircksen, Das deutsche Volksgesicht (Berlin: Drei Masken Verlag, ).
 Sekula, Traffic in Photographs, 18. See also Andy Jones, “Reading August Sander’s Archive,” Oxford Art Journal 23, no.1 (2000): 4.
 An early version of the numerous published iterations of this project is August Sander, Antlitz der Zeit. Sechzig Aufnahmen deutscher Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts, with a preface by Alfred Döblin (Munich: Transmare Verlag, 1929). Exemplarily for the vast literature on Sander, see Jones, Reading August Sander’s Archive; George Baker, “Photography between Narrativity and Stasis: August Sander, Degeneration, and the Decay of the Portrait,” October 76 (1996): 72–113.
 Sekula, Traffic in Photographs, esp. 18–19. Sekula also puts the work of Sander in relation to other, similar photographic survey projects of the twentieth century, showing that the resonance of Sander’s work may be specifically linked to German history, but that its pictorial mode has parallels in other national frameworks.
 Jones, Reading August Sander’s Archive, with a reference to John Berger, 5.
 On the trickle-down of aesthetic principles of portrait photography into amateur photography of the 1930s and ’40s, see Katharina Berger, “Das Porträtfoto zwischen Tradition und Moderne. Lehrbücher für Amateurfotografen in den 1930er bis 1940er Jahren,” in Blask and Friedrich, Volksgesicht, 201–208.
 Dittmann and Fromm, Oskar Maria Graf, 118–129.
 Stiftung Literaturhaus, Oskar Maria Graf, 78.
 Quoted after Dittman and Fromm, Oskar Maria Graf 135–136: “Dazwischen, werktäglich und ohne Drum und Dran und dennoch wie das Krönende schlechthin, hängt meine alte Mutter, und mit ihr vollenden sich gleichsam nach geheimnisvollen Sinn, Zusammenhänge, die mir erst nach schweren Jahren und wie durch einen Zufall offenbar geworden sind” (my translation).
 Dittmann and Fromm, Oskar Maria Graf, 136.
 Elizabeth Edwards, “Photographs as Strong History,” in Costanza Caraffa and Tiziana Serena, eds., Photo Archives and the Idea of Nation (Berlin/Munich/Boston: DeGruyter, 2015), 321–329, esp. 323.
 Edwards, Strong History, 321.
 Ibid., 325. Anna Sophia Messner’s study on German-Jewish female photographers who migrated to Israel/Palestine in the 1930s and ’40s works with this notion of nation-building, yet connects it to personal, individual biographies and agencies. While not directly related to the topic of this essay, Messner’s work has been an important inspiration for my perspective on photography and migration. See, for instance, Anna Sophia Messner, “Visual Constructions of Otherness in Pre-State Palestine and the early State of Israel: A Female Perspective through the Camera,” in Ivana Prijatelj Pavičić, Marina Vicelja Matijašić et al., eds., Liminal Spaces of Art between Europe and the Middle East (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Publishing, 2018), 114–129.