Photographs seems like cruel little slices from the past, frozen images of what will never be again. Since we assume that the photographic image is, by and large, a factual view of some reality, it is inherently believed and trusted. But now be forewarned. It ain’t necessarily so. Bill Aron’s new images at the 92nd Street Y betray and beguile so as to force us to reassess the meaning of what we see.
“Boy Jumping into the Hudson River” (1948) by Ruth Orkin reflects a tragic moment in the history of the New York photographic group, the Photo League. On the surface simply a carefree moment of urban youth, and yet dangerous. That year was the beginning of the end of a brave experiment in modern photography started only 12 years earlier.
Can the Holocaust be memorialized by an aesthetically beautiful object? Doesn’t the obscenity of the crime create a fundamental contradiction? The question still stands 66 years later, even as art is still being made about the Holocaust. Jewish creativity seeks to smother hate. But the questions persist: can a memorial ignite hope instead of despair?
Iconic images are rare, especially in the mundane world of photojournalism. But when they happen their intense simplicity compresses a host of ideas and emotions in a single picture, making complexity seem transparent. Israeli photojournalist Rina Castelnuovo excels at this skill. Her first solo exhibition currently at the Andrea Meislin Gallery is a breathtaking tour-de-force of photographic insight focusing on the complex reality of Israeli life.
The Holocaust was “Ground Zero of the Greenwald-Kahana family.” In the midst of the murderous fury of 1944 three sisters were tattooed with consecutive numbers in Auschwitz. They were lucky; they survived while so many of their family perished. The sisters found their way to Israel where they met men, married, had children who had children who will have children.
What is Frydlender up to?
Barry Frydlender, the prominent Israeli photographer, is currently privileged with simultaneous exhibitions at the Tel Aviv Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His New York exhibition consists of a mere 10 works that examine various aspects of Israeli life today.
Photography is a tantalizingly young medium that burst upon the visual scene with the spectacular daguerreotype invented in France in 1839. Its use and popularity quickly spread from Europe to the Middle East so much so that an early commentator on photography, Francis Wey, called pictures that document the Orient (Palestine) “peaceful conquests.”
Look someone in the eye and you immediately begin a narrative. Photograph them while they are looking at the camera and a cascade of narratives are launched. That is the nature of our visual selves, one of the strongest desires of the human being, the passion to connect. Zion Ozeri's photography is responsible for a flood of narration arriving from the four corners of the Jewish universe. His camera and his vision reach out to our brethren, isolated and impoverished in more ways than one, and begins a conversation. One wonders if we, his audience, will be able to respond.
Mincha is the most fragile of prayers. It is typically caught on the run, sandwiched between a hurried lunch and return to the ordeals of the workday. Even if prayed somewhat leisurely after work in the late afternoon or early evening, it nonetheless must share the spotlight with the evening prayer that is ennobled by the awesome Shema. One might say mincha is the poor cousin of shacharis and the younger brother of maariv. It is in this context that Jaime Permuth's photographs at the Yeshiva University Museum explore the textures and atmosphere of what is easily the most naked prayer of the entire day, mincha.
Imagining the tempting aroma of pecan pie and fresh challah the age-old rhythms of Southern Jewry unfold before our eyes in the seductively handsome exhibition of photographs, Shalom Y'all, currently at the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach. The show artfully fulfills the museum's fundamental mission of presenting exhibits of Florida Jewish life, past and present. The enormous Jewish community in southern Florida (625,000; 3rd largest Jewish community in the U.S.) is home to many who originated in southern states.
What makes the Land of Israel so special? Given to us by God this wonderfully diverse corner of earth is much more of a “gift” than meets the eye. It is a gift that carries responsibility as an inheritance to be treasured even as it is trod upon, marked, possessed and inhabited by the Jewish people. The real meaning in the gift of the Land of Israel is in how the Jews use it. In the utility of the Holy Land we will become a holy people. The extraordinary photographs of Chanan Getraide in the “Promised Land” currently at the Hebrew Union College Museum evoke the material reality of the Jewish people on their Land.