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Juris Benjamins

Juris Benjamins, the adopted son of the pre-WW II Latvian press magnate – publisher of the newspaper, Jaunākās Ziņas (The Latest News) and the magazine, Atpūta (Leisure) – Emilija Benjamins and the natural son of actress Anna Aicher (nee Simsone and the younger sister of Emilija) and the Austrian actor Rudolf Aicher, was born in Orenburg, Russia on 29 July, 1918. He was christened: Georg. After he returned to Latvia along with his mother, he attended Riga High School Nr. 1 and afterwards studied Chemistry at the University of Latvia from where he was awarded his Masters Degree in 1942.

He set up a laboratory in his family’s factory,
“Burtnieki” and quickly achieved noteworthy results in color photography and film development. In an interview much later for the newspaper “Laiks” he said, “I was probably born with a camera in my hands – from the very beginning I tried to improve picture quality”. His first color photographs: of floral compositions; were published in “Atpūta” in the latter part of the 1930s. On 28 February, 1940 he presented a paper entitled “Practical Applications of Colour Photography” at the University of Latvia Chemistry Faculty Student Society, which was attended by virtually every professional photographer in Latvia. The paper was also published at the same time in the Journal “Kīmijsas Apskats” (Chemistry Review). The paper gave a theoretical description of color photography methods, however as Juris admitted, “to gain a really good image, the theory is not enough; one has to immerse himself in many practical details.”

Juris Benjamins issued the first set of colour photo post-cards published in Latvia. Research in colour photography and chemistry was also part of his Masters dissertation. While a student he was also an avid participant in shooting (firearms) sports; he took numerous first places in Latvian national shooting competitions and was a member of the Latvian Olympic team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

After the Second World War, Juris/George Benjamin worked as a chemist in Germany and England. Then in 1952, in Toronto, Canada, he founded his own business: “Benjamin Film Laboratories”, for the developing of colour film. Over time it became one of the largest and solidest businesses of this type in Canada. George Benjamin had three children, two sons, Peter and Juris and a daughter, Ilze. In the last ten years of his life, after surviving a stroke, he turned the running of the business over to his son Peter, himself remaining as president of the firm.

Extract from obituary published in the Latvian Journal of Chemistry - 1994

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