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  • Laureta Huit

In The Presence of Heroes

exploration of the photography archive of David Scheinbaum

Now on View, Opening June 6, 2024

Artist Talk and Walk-Through June 8, 2024, at 3:30PM

We are presenting our new exhibition to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, allied invasion of Normandy, operation OVER LORD, its code name was Neptune, and now we refer to it as D-day.  This exhibit also commemorates the 30th anniversary of Louis Scheinbaum’s return to the towns he liberated those so many years ago, and the transformative journey of one artist and how his relationship with his father was forever changed. 

David Scheinbaum approached our museum about placing his vast archive related to his documentation of that return and their powerfully reflective journey to the beaches of Normandy in 1994.  In 2021 David and I met to discuss placing this archive with our museum and why it was appropriate.   At the time he was placing many of his collected works at institutions that appropriately fit their subject.  One of my goals since taking on my role here at the museum has been to grow our museum Fine Art Collection, and this archive was part of that initiative. 


The archive contains his work and documentation during his journey to the 50th Anniversary of D-day in 1994 accompanying his parents to La-Haye-du-Puits, France, a town that his father Louis Scheinbaum liberated during WW2.  “In The Presence of Heroes,” is a vast archive of fine art photographs, a personal journal, correspondence, ephemera, including celebratory bottles of wine and beer. A special supplement from the Santa Fe New Mexican is the article produced from Mr. Scheinbaum’s archive. Combining a personal essay and photographs resulted in the publication of “In The Presence of Heroes,” in the July 4th, 1994, issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Through written essay and photography David Scheinbaum documented his journey to the beachheads and towns of Normandy. He was transformed by witnessing the lasting generational effects of gratitude and reverence that were still so powerfully held in the hearts of the grandchildren of the townsfolk liberated by his father Louis Scheinbaum.

Louis Scheinbaum served in the 79th infantry Division which landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day plus six.  Six months later its reputation was so widespread that a German division warned its units to watch out for the 79th and were regarded as one of the best attack divisions in the U.S. Army. After landing on Utah Beach, The first major mission assigned to the 79th Division was an important role, sharing in the assault on Cherbourg.  The Germans called it their “Fortress Port”, the capture of Cherbourg was integral to the allies advancement into and through central Europe.  On June 26, 1944,  Cherbourg was liberated and now under Allied control.  The next day from Cherbourg the 79th were on route to La-Haye-du-Puits, the German supply center for German forces in Northern France. Battling their way through hedgerow after hedgerow, La-Haye-du-Puits was liberated on July 8th, 1944.  From there on the 79th worked their way towards the German border, through Le Mans, crossing the Seine river, through Mantes, countering German attacks throughout the route.  Entering Belgium at Saint Armand, they endured relentless attacks and fought several fierce battles during Operation NORD WIND near Parry and Strasbourg, with great success they pushed through east to Alsace-Lorraine.  Continuing north ever closer to the German border.  With an all-out divisional attack, they finally crossed the Rhine River into Germany.   The 79th secured and controlled the vital territory and operational resources of central and northern France, driving out the Germans, and liberating the small hamlets of the French countryside along the way.


Louis Scheinbaum was a Medic.  His primary aim and duties were to the care of the wounded, although it carried him frequently into areas of great danger.   He pursued his goal without hesitation under whatever conditions prevailed.  On several occasions he went well in advance of friendly lines to administer medical treatment to the wounded men of his unit.  The combined courage and devotion to the welfare of his fellow soldiers exhibited by Mr. Scheinbaum reflect what an enduring asset he was to the Armed Forces of the United States.   Louis Scheinbaum maintained an attitude of humility in his writings to his sweetheart, “A lot of the other men did much more than I did, and we don’t care for any medals.”

I spent the winter holiday in 2021 pouring over the vast archive of written letters, journals, itineraries, and ephemera.  While I was cataloging the collection of work prints produced by David, I was struck by their composition, beauty, and the narrative I found in the many letters and cards contained in the archive.  Particularly the still and quiet landscape images that capture the remnants of war, a child playing in a bomb crater, or a solo figure traversing an empty beach, Considering what was a chaotic gruesome scene of horror, death, triumphs and losses, to reflect in the same space which was vasty, empty, quiet solum beach, but what was most intriguing was that of a son transformed, conceptions shattered, and relationships renewed and changed forever. 

David Scheinbaum spent his life unaware of his father's service record in World War Two, Louis Scheinbaum only shared the curious or funny moments when recounting the war to his two sons.  David, as many others were during that time, was an anti-war Vietnam war protestor, with long hair and a counter-culture aesthetic.  David dawned his father's World War Two Eisenhower jacket, Louis removed his patches and obligingly passed it on to David.  David, wholly engrossed in his newfound passion for photography picked up a World War Two era gas mask bag at the local army surplus store, this would become his photography bag and carried his equipment around in it. The implications of the ironic fashion choice made by the young anti-war photographer had not been fully realized.   I feel in some subconscious recess, adorning the coat of his heroic father paid unrealized tribute to his father’s service.  David was drafted during the Vietnam era but was given a 1-Y classification due to a medical condition.  David maintained his perspective in the years following the Vietnam war.   

When the 50th anniversary of D-day was approaching Louis had been invited to attend this commemoration ceremony as one of the 79th infantry division. David saw it opportunity to take his parents to Europe and treat them to an experience, he was unaware of how important this return would be.  As David reviewed the lengthy itinerary it became clear that he would need press credentials to have permission to photograph many of the events due to dignitaries and world leaders being present.  He made mention of his intended trip to a colleague at the New Mexican to see if they could assist in any way to facilitate his credentials, they did, and they agreement was that he would photograph his journey, keep a diary, and turn them into the New Mexican upon his return.  David only saw the trip as a way to document his parents’ experience.  David served as a contemporaneous figure, processing his father’s service. Striving to stand as a true documentarian, removing himself from his surroundings, only there to capture images of the event on film. David was unaware of the impact his father had on those he liberated. It was on a tour bus surrounded by elderly veterans that his perspective changed.  As the bus rounded a corner, he saw the street filled with children and townsfolk waving the American Flag in honor of the men on that bus, David was stuck with realization, “I began looking at everyone a little differently.  They weren’t old; they were soldiers returning to a town they had liberated.”  He was transformed causing a shift in perception, he was now suddenly in the company of Heroes.  David began the trip without intention of what it would become, and again paid unconscious tribute to his father by serving as documentarian. Through the warmth, and enduring admiration of the towns people David was finally able to see his father for who he truly was, a hero.

During their 1994 journey Louis Scheinbaum was transported to when he had arrived fifty years prior, and his son David stood as his witness, “Your Dad got the chance to revisit a time in his life that was at the core of his being, a time, you may never have fully comprehended before.  He also lived to receive a tribute from his son – a son so different from himself yet still apart of him – a tribute so personal yet so far reaching to share such a moment with a son, and for the son to turn that moment into a treasure of love and understanding...made tangible.”  The shared sentiment included in correspondence with a family friend of Scheinbaum’s wholly captures what a transformative experience this was for the father and son as individuals as well as the family and their relationships. 

Over the past two years I have had the great honor to work with David, Janet, and Andra to fully realize the vision I have had for this exhibition.  I want to thank David and his team for their support in helping us realize this exhibition.  I had intended to exhibit the work prints, not knowing that it would be possible to have fine art photographic prints made by David.  He spent this past winter in the dark room reprinting negatives from nearly 30 years ago, and we are honored to have them as part of our collection has been a great honor to get to know Louis through the many letters and images, I am forever grateful to him for the sacrifices he made to protect and serve our country. 



1 opmerking

15 jun.

Just wonderful! The show should tour!

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