Pam Mendelsohn

Until a decade ago, Mendelsohn's primary mode of expression was writing. She is the author of two books for women returning to school: Happier By Degrees (E. P. Dutton, 1980; Ten Speed Press, 1986) and Degrees of Success (Peterson's Guides, 1989). And, she has written articles on a wide variety of topics for numerous publications. However, Mendelsohn has also continuously incorporated photography into her personal and professional life. Her kitchen in New York City, 1969-1971, in fact served up many more photographic prints than it did calories.

Pam at Tarxien, a temple in Malta, November 1999, photo copyright Peter Palmquist

Pam at Tarxien Temple
November, 1999
Peter Palmquist

Mendelsohn quips that her undergraduate degree in philosophy enabled her to feel at home as a sophist when she became a publicist in 1968 for Macmillan Books in New York. She has had thirty years of professional involvement with the media on various sides of the fence and also with fund raising. She was the development director of a public radio station, a museum, and a non-profit organization focusing on the issues for parents with disabilities. Her job at the World Institute on Disability took her to the former Soviet Union 13 times between 1993 and 1996 in order to lead workshops on how to utilize the media to effect social change.

Mendelsohn has always found tremendous satisfaction in rituals and traditions that involve photography. For example, she has orchestrated an annual photograph of her daughter, in which Rebekah is posed in or near water. The first was taken a few days after Rebekah was born in 1974, and the most recent was just before her 25th birthday six months ago. When Rebekah was leaving home in California for college in New York, mother and daughter chose to commemorate the occasion by mounting a photography exhibit at Plaza Design in Arcata. The 1992 show was called: Points of View: A Collaborative Mother/Daughter Retrospective.

Mendelsohn is best known for her images of found objects, street 'seens', and still lifes. Her lifelong fascination with mannequins, cemeteries, and blatant incongruities she encounters while strolling between Point A and Point B are three areas she has been concentrating on with her camera. An exhibit in November, 1998 at Gallery Dog in Eureka, with sculptor Susan Needham, helped to solidify her interest in what Needham called "Social Armour."

Mendelsohn's partner of 23 years, Peter Palmquist, and her daughter, Rebekah, are also immersed in the realm of imagery. Peter Palmquist is a well known photohistorian who is the founder of the Women In Photography International Archive. He has written a staggering number of books and articles concerning photography's history. Rebekah, also a photographer, is in a Ph.D. program in American Studies at Boston University. Her area of interest is the history of photography. She was the guest curator of an exhibition based on Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum's historical photographs called The Nature of Things at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, September, 2000 through May, 2001.

Mendelsohn's work is represented in Women Photographers: a selection of images from the Women In Photography International Archive 1852-1997 and in the catalogues from Emeryville Art Association exhibits in 1997, 1998, and 1999 and Behind the Redwood Curtain: Women Photographers of Humboldt County, California 1850-2000.


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