A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here
Menachem Kipnis is known to Jewish history as a cultural figure who worked across several fields. Born in Uzhmir, Ukraine in 1878, Kipnis distinguished himself as a singer, ethnomusicologist and journalist. As a singer he was the first Jewish tenor in the Warsaw Opera (1902-1918) and along with his wife, Zimra Zeligfield, he was among the most important early singers of Yiddish folksongs.
As an ethnomusicologist Kipnis collected songs all over Europe and published them in two important pioneering anthologies of Yiddish folksongs. As a journalist he wrote articles about music in various Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers. He was also well-known for his reportages, which recounted the lives of ordinary Jews whom he encountered on the streets of Warsaw. For these articles, which were published in the Warsaw-based newspaper Haynt as well as in the New York-based Tog, as well as occasionally in the Forverts, Kipnis took his own photos of his interview subjects.
Kipnis died in the Warsaw ghetto of a brain-aneurysm in 1942. After his death, his wife Zimra kept his massive archive of papers, diaries, music and photographic negatives with her in the ghetto. She refused to turn her husband’s archive over to Emanuel Ringelblum, who had asked her to let him preserve it as part of the secret archive he administered called “Oyneg Shabbos.” Kipnis’s archive disappeared without a trace after Zimra Zeligfield’s deportation to Treblinka.
Copyright William Klein/Courtesy HackelBury Fine Art, London
At almost 86, the pioneering photographer, artist and filmmaker William Klein, continues to draw a crowd. On February 23, Klein was at Jewish Book Week in London discussing his life and work with Alan Yentob, creative director of the BBC and editor and presenter of the television arts series, “Imagine.” The event was a sell-out — a testament to Klein’s extraordinary contribution, influence and sheer range of work.
Klein may have appeared physically frail, but his humor and renowned feisty nature were evident throughout. Yentob described Klein as “a pioneer of the photobook,” a person who refused to be pigeonholed. People are willing accomplices in his pictures, he said, they are participating with him. Klein’s early, raw, energetic and at times, angry 1950-‘60s images of the street are illustrated in his series of books about cities — firstly New York, then Rome, Moscow and Tokyo. These were a dramatic contrast to the classical composition epitomised by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. While Bresson kept his distance from his subjects, Klein came after people with his camera, a master of the close-up.
Klein’s work as a filmmaker included the first ever documentary about the fighter Muhammad Ali (1969) as well as a controversial political satire about the fashion industry, “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” (1966), which starred his favorite model, Dorothy McGowan. There were “no rules as far as he was concerned,” she has said of Klein’s work.
Photographing graceful male dancers in New York may seem a long way from taking pictures of gruff IDF soldiers in Israel. But for 27-year-old lensman Nir Arieli, the progression makes perfect sense. “I always had an agenda to find that gentleness and sensitivity hidden in the soldiers I photographed,” he says, “which is something I do in my current work.” For his new project, “Inframen,” on view at Daniel Cooney Fine Arts in Chelsea through March 8, Arieli used an infrared technique that emphasizes imperfections like scars, stretch marks, and sun damage on dancers; the effect’s beautiful and a bit spectral.
Born in Tel Aviv, Arieli served as a photographer for Bamachane, the official magazine of the Israeli army; after emigrating, he earned a BFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His career’s steamrolled since then, with clients including the Juilliard School, the Alvin Ailey school, and his alma mater, The School of Visual Arts, among others.
Michael Kaminer: You launched your career as military photographer for the IDF magazine Bamachane. How did that experience influence your work now?
Many people are familiar with an iconic photograph of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo titled “Frida at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, NYC 1933.” In the picture, Kahlo is seated, and a small painted self-portrait hangs above her and slightly to the left on the wall. Less known than the photograph itself is the name of the woman who took it. Her name was Lucienne Bloch, and she was Kahlo’s friend, and an artist in her own right.
The Jewish Community Library in San Francisco currently has an exhibition of photographs by Lucienne Bloch, along with some taken by her father, the famous Swiss-born Jewish musical composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959). The show, titled “A Shared Eye,” highlights the father’s interest in artfully documenting nature, and the daughter’s preferred focus on people and what the camera can catch of their psychological make-up.
Some of Ernest’s photographs of life in the Swiss countryside grab the eye, including “The Mushroom Lady, 1912” featuring an elderly woman in a witch-like ensemble looking straight into the camera while holding a giant mushroom in each hand. Lucienne’s photos of social and political demonstrations in New York and Detroit in the mid-1930’s are well composed. Also of note is her rare photo of Albert Einstein playing violin in a musical group at Princeton.
For 40 years, the Ontario Jewish Archives has chronicled one of North America’s most vibrant Jewish communities. Now, the Archives is raiding its vault with an anniversary exhibit of 30 rarely seen images that focus on historically Jewish neighborhoods, local political activism, and society portraits — a field dominated by Jewish photographers. Once a staid institution with a hushed profile, Canada’s largest archival collection documenting Jewish life became buzzier with last year’s hiring of Dara Solomon, a native Torontonian who’d been a curator at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Along with ramping up the Archives’ digital capabilities, Solomon is pushing to make recent immigrants a bigger part of the project. The Forward caught up with her in Toronto.
Michael Kaminer: The headline of the exhibit’s press release claims that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” For Toronto Jews, what’s changed, and what’s remained the same?
Dara Solomon: Toronto’s Jewish community, in many ways, feels very similar to how it did 25 years ago. There’s a high level of participation in Jewish life. Children are attending Hebrew day schools in record numbers. Support for Israel is unwavering. I’ve also witnessed a renaissance of Jewish life in the downtown area, where I live. And a number of the original synagogues downtown are experiencing a renewal. So, what’s old is new again, as the early Jewish community lived and thrived in this area.
Looking at the archives as a whole, what would you say characterizes the Jews of Ontario?
What one person sees is not necessarily what another sees — even if they are both looking at the same thing. In the case of Israeli designer Tal Erez’s new “A Point of View” exhibition, that thing is Jerusalem.
Erez’s work on this project has given him a new perspective on the city. Now, with the interactive exhibition on view until July 28 at First Station, (Jerusalem’s recently renovated historic train station turned arts and entertainment venue) Erez is giving the public a chance to see Israel’s capital in a different way.
More precisely, visitors can look at Jerusalem in 18 ways — through specially made View-Master reels curated by Erez for the 3rd annual Jerusalem Season of Culture. Each reel has a different theme, a different interpretive narrative of the city. According to Erez, he originally had 30 themes, and whittled the number down to a more manageable number.
“As I got to know Jerusalem better, I realized that the city is all about clichés. Everyone here adopts a single narrative of the city and sticks to it. In Jerusalem, narrative seems to equal cliché,” the 31-year-old noted in an interview with The Arty Semite as he attended to final details of the exhibition’s installation.
“I began to think that maybe there was nothing beneath the clichés I could work with, so I decided to go for what is above them, to create a super-narrative,” he explained.
Most grandmothers start to slow down when they hit their golden years, but not Frederika Goldberger. At 93, she’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Outfitted in her spandex suit, cape, helmet and high-top sneakers, she’s ready for any challenge — not as Frederika, but as Mamika, the geriatric superhero in a series of celebrated photographs by her grandson, French photographer Sacha Goldberger.
Mamika fans follow her crazy adventures — like dueling with Darth Vader, walking a flying dog, and riding backward atop a vintage black Dodge Coronet — on Sacha’s website, at exhibitions (there is currently one running until January 25 at Act2 Rive Gauche La Galerie d’en Face in Paris) and in two books: “Mamika: My Mighty Little Grandmother,” published in English translation earlier this year; and the new “Mamika & Co” published in France in November.
Sacha, 43, a fashion and advertising photographer, began the Mamika project around seven years ago as a means of helping his grandmother get out of a funk following her retirement at age 80 from a long career as a consultant in the textile industry. Mamika means “little grandmother” in Hungarian, Frederika’s native tongue.
The Black Star Collection’s journey to Toronto hasn’t quite been as dramatic as the flight of its Jewish creator, Ernest Mayer, from the Nazis. But its recent landing at Ryerson University — which acquired nearly 300,000 Black Star images with the help of an anonymous donor — caps a colorful history.
Ryerson will unveil the collection, and a $70-million “Image Centre” purpose-built to house it, at a grand opening September 29. The collection is “the single largest gift of cultural property ever made to a Canadian university,” according to a Ryerson press release. Ryerson — which launched Canada’s first graduate program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management — wouldn’t identify the donor, but did note “no Jewish connection” to the gift.
It’s hard to picture in an age of smartphones and Pinterest, but Black Star looms large in the history of 20th-century journalism — and of the century itself. Its photographers included Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Britain’s Bill Brandt and Germaine Krull, a pioneering female lenser. Black Star photo essays documented century-defining events from World War II to the Vietnam War to the Civil Rights movement, and iconic news-portrait subjects ranged from Marilyn Monroe to Muhammad Ali to Marc Chagall to Fidel Castro.
Only in New York would the German-born son of Colombian immigrants land a career retrospective of Jewish-themed photos at his homeland’s consulate.
Appropriately, “Only In New York” is the title of Julian Voloj’s new exhibit opening June 6 at the German Consulate in Manhattan. The show is touted as “an intimate portrait of a variety of Jewish communities, former Jewish neighborhoods, and expressions of identity” in his adopted home base.
Voloj, 38, has built a flourishing career documenting global Diaspora culture since moving to New York a decade ago to pursue a relationship with then Forward reporter Lisa Keys, who had interviewed him as a German student leader. His beautifully composed black-and-white images have depicted black Jews in New York, Ethiopian Jews in their own land, and traces of vanished Jews in Germany’s Munsterland region, his birthplace. Forward readers may also recognize Voloj as the eye who captured prominent Jewish New Yorkers for the 2007 book “A Living Lens.” Voloj has also parlayed his perspective into JWalks, which offers Jewish-heritage walking tours of New York City neighborhoods.
Voloj and Keys now live in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City with their sons, 4-year-old Leon and 2-year-old Simon. The Arty Semite caught up with Voloj as he prepared for the opening.
Michael Kaminer: Your new exhibit is billed as a retrospective. Aren’t you a bit young for that kind of treatment?
There’s a good chance you’ve seen Noam Galai’s face — even if you’ve never heard of him. That’s because a 2006 photo he took of himself screaming has been copied and used without permission by people, groups and companies around the world. “The Stolen Scream,” as the photo is called, has gone viral, appearing on t-shirts, magazine and book covers, and as political graffiti everywhere.
Galai, 27, is a New York-based Israeli photographer whose day job is in advertising design at AOL. In just a few short years, Galai has gone from an amateur self-taught photographer to an accomplished professional, shooting celebrities like Jay-Z, Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder in concert and the studio. A big sports fan, he has also gravitated toward photographing major games and matches in the U.S., Europe and Israel.
The Arty Semite recently spoke with Galai on the phone about his burgeoning photography career and an exclusive shot he took of Gilad Shalit on a recent under-the-radar visit to New York.
Renee Ghert-Zand: Was there a specific moment when you went from being an amateur photographer to a professional?
From 2006 to 2011, artist and journalist Leah Kohlenberg lived in a handful of former Soviet countries. While there, a fascination with societies in transition took hold, and she became “obsessed with the wreckage, ruins and signs of life” that she saw in those places, as well as in others she visited. She began to see evidence of both decay and revitalization everywhere. Out of this came “Ruin: Rebirth,” a series of 30 photographs currently on view at Brooklyn’s Hadas Gallery through March 19.
The pictures are mostly cityscapes taken in Eastern Europe, with a little bit of Greece and even a shot from Brooklyn thrown in. They depict scenes that anyone interested in the paradoxes and complexities of urban life would find compelling: flowering vines creeping over a wall, an ornate banister in a run-down stairwell that’s held in place with the help of string, a public sculpture of the word “newborn” with each of its letters covered in graffiti.
“What does it mean to be British and Jewish in this century?” That’s the question that photojournalist Judah Passow asked himself when formulating the guiding principles for “No Place Like Home,” his photographic exhibition that opened at the Jewish Museum London on February 1.
A winner of four World Press Photo awards, Passow was born in Israel of American parentage. He has lived in the U.K. for 30 years, yet he rarely takes photographs in England. Instead, his work has taken him to many of the world’s conflict zones.
But after completing “Shattered Dreams,” a collection of 25 years of newspaper and magazine coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, published in 2008, Passow decided to “take a look at where I live.”
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
When American Jews first discovered the Jewish community center, or JCC, way back in the 1920s, what drew them in droves was the novelty of its indoor pool and well-equipped gym.
Today, the JCC’s constituents are just as likely to be drawn by the art on the walls as they are by the prospect of exercise. Two current exhibitions, one at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and the other at the Washington District of Columbia Jewish Community Center, underscore the increasing importance of the gallery to Jewish communal life.
At the Upper West Side home of the JCC, photographer Lori Grinker, in collaboration with her cousin, Richard Grinker, an anthropologist at the George Washington University, takes the measure of her far-flung family. Grinker’s aptly-named show, “Distant Relations,” which runs through January 5th, focuses on the ways in which her relatives, citizens of Ukraine, South Africa, England and the United States, come to be at home in today’s world.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Ever since the late 19th century, much of what we know, or think we know, about the Middle East is derived from photography, whose images run the gamut from ancient ruins to latter-day landscapes scarred by conflict, from scenes of renewal and affirmation to those of despair and anguish.
For years, the American Colony Photo Department in Jerusalem was the source of many of those images. The stereopticon slides, postcards and souvenir albums that bore its imprint, and which can now be found at the Library of Congress, focused on the seeming timelessness of the region’s landscapes and the people who inhabited it, on continuity rather than change.
The work of Sharon Ya’ari, one of Israel’s leading contemporary photographers, is something else again. Like his predecessors, he, too, trains his sights on the landscape, but where they saw only stasis, Mr. Ya’ari sees movement. Reverence was the stock-in-trade of the American Colony photographs. Sharon Ya’ari’s body of work, in striking contrast, places a premium on irony.
In “Born,” a solo exhibition showing at the Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York through November 5, photographer Elinor Carucci presents intimate, at times unsettling, but always unflinchingly candid portraits of herself and her twin children. Born in Israel in 1971, Carucci started taking photographs at the age of 15. She moved to New York after graduating from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and has since forged overlapping careers in visual art and commercial photography. Her photographs, often of herself or family members, have been exhibited across three continents (another solo exhibition, “Love In Spite,” is running at Tel Aviv’s Tavi Art Gallery through October 7); her commissions have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and Esquire, among other publications. She spoke to The Arty Semite about the self-reflective and personal nature of her work.
Akin Ajayi: “Born” presents images of motherhood very much at odds with our internalized concept of maternal bliss. Are these general statements or a meditation on personal experience?
The fourth floor of 81 Bowery, in New York’s Chinatown, is composed of narrow, ceiling-less cubicles that some 35 Chinese immigrants call home. After reading a Village Voice feature on the residence, photographer Annie Ling was inspired to capture the space and the hard-working men and women who inhabit it. The result was an absorbing photo essay, published recently on the website of The New York Times.
Ling’s images recall the dawn-to-dusk labor and cramped conditions that greeted generations of Eastern-European Jewish immigrants who settled, at the turn of the 20th century, on the Lower East Side — just a stone’s throw from 81 Bowery. Ling, who emigrated from Taiwan at age 7, spoke recently with The Arty Semite about the culture that exists within the tenement’s walls, the dreams that residents harbored upon coming to America, and how this project grew out of a need to share her own immigrant story.
Gabrielle Birkner: What drew you to this particular assignment?
Arnold Newman, Chaim Gross with ‘Happy Mother,’ 1942. Courtesy of the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation and the Arnold Newman Archive.
During the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, sculptor Chaim Gross (1904-1991) spent two summer months outdoors, working in front of crowds that totalled some 80,000 people. “I would look them over and if they looked intelligent I would answer their questions but if not I would keep on working,” he told the New York Herald Tribune.
It wasn’t just tourists and passersby that stopped to see Gross work. LIFE Magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon also came by, and took several striking pictures of the sculptor, busy in the act of creation.
Those photos are part of a current exhibit, “Displayed: Stages for Sculpture,” on view until December 16 at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in New York. A practitioner of the “direct carving” method who created totemic human figures out of wood and stone, Gross was a perfect subject for photographers who wanted to capture his creative process.
A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here
It is said that a good firefighter arrives at the scene half an hour before the fire breaks out. So what about a good photojournalist?
When the amateur German aviator Mathias Rust infiltrated the Soviet Union in 1987 and landed right in the middle of Red Square, Arkady Yagudaev was already on the scene with his cheap Zenit camera, hanging around Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
Yagudaev, a longtime Forverts photographer who is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, began his photojournalism career somewhat by happenstance. Growing up in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, he sent in a photo of the Bukhara-Urals gas pipeline to Izvestiya, the official government newspaper in Moscow. When the paper published the photo, he decided to leave home and make his way as a photographer in the capital.
Photo by Ahron D. Weiner
In 2004, photographer Ahron D. Weiner took his first trip to the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, Ukraine. Before his death in 1810, Nachman is said to have promised that if his followers came to his grave on Rosh Hashanah, he would intercede on their behalf in heaven, even “pulling them out of hell by their peyes.” In recent years Uman has become the largest Jewish pilgrimage site outside of Israel, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year, a scene Weiner describes as “Mt. Sinai meets Woodstock.” For six years Weiner returned to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, taking thousands of photographs. In the video below, Weiner describes his experiences in Uman, interacting with and taking pictures of the pilgrims who flock there. An exhibit of these photos titled “Next Year in Uman: A Journey to the Ukraine” is currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art.
Watch a video of ‘Next Year in Uman’:
In the world of Jewish museums and art collections, there is no more iconic landscape than Jerusalem. But how many ways can one see the Dome of the Rock, the Old City gates or the shuk at Mahane Yehuda before they become static tropes? With such a heavily charged backdrop, photography of Jerusalem often devolves into bland suggestions about what people struggle with and share in the sacred city.
The most welcome achievement of “Illuminated Reflections: A Bill Aron and Victor Raphael Collaboration,” showing until May 8 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, is how directly it takes on these familiar scenes and creates something new with the material. Aron is a photographer who focuses on Jewish communities, while Raphael works with an eclectic range of media, from traditional gold leafing to digital art, both of which he uses here to alter pictures taken over the course of Aron’s career.