Jewish Museum’s ‘Radical Camera’ show highlights the pioneering work of the N.Y. Photo League.
Special To The Jewish Week
The juxtaposition in the photograph, like the contrast between the makeshift encampment at Zuccotti Park and the soaring tower of Goldman Sachs’ headquarters, is glaring. On a gritty street on the Lower East Side, the two sides of a tenement building tell a tale of haves and have-nots, the 1 percent and the 99. In Erika Stone’s striking black-and-white photo, a family’s gray underthings hang limply on a clothesline, framed by the tenement’s fading brick, while on the adjoining wall a well-coiffed and full-lipped blonde in an advertisement gazes sexily upward, a boxy ring on her finger and a sleek watch on her wrist.
Yesterday's news was focused on photo editing. A national conversation on the ethics of doctoring photos was kicked off when a Brooklyn-based Hasidic Yiddish language newspaper used Photoshop to airbrush out two prominent women -- Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason -- from an iconic photo released by the White House. More than a rant on the extremes to which the ultra-Orthodox will go to keep photos of women from the pages of their newspapers, what I find most interesting is the question of when it is appropriate to alter a photograph.
I couldn't help but be saddened by the snippet of art-world news I read today: long-time MoMA photography curator Peter Galassi announced his retirement. He's not exactly old--he's 60--but he's been at the MoMA for more than three decades and has been an tremendous boon for contemporary photography. One of my favorite shows in recent memory, at any New York City museum, and in any medium, was the Jeff Wall retropsecive in 2007. But
Comfort and detachment in the photos of Yael Ben-Zion at the 92nd Street Y.
Special To The Jewish Week
In a series of photographs currently being exhibited at the Milton J. Weill Art Gallery at the 92nd Street Y, Yael Ben-Zion, a New York-based photographer evokes life in modern-day Israel. Born in Minneapolis and raised in Arad in southern Israel, Ben-Zion moved to the States to pursue advanced law studies at Yale only to pick up a camera and fall in love with photography while working on her law degree.
It’s easy to “photo-shop” people out of pictures these days, but as any genealogist will tell you, sending relatives to the “recycle bin” is usually a very bad idea.
Even before I became an amateur genealogist, I was the person in my family who saved our photographs and placed them in albums. My collection dates back to 1895, soon after my great-grandparents arrived in New York. Within weeks, they put on their best clothes and posed for pictures to send back home.
“Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.” So begins the 44th chapter of Ecclesiasticus, an ancient Jewish book also known as the Proverbs of Ben Sira. The photographer Walker Evans and the writer James Agee took the first half of this verse to name their American classic of 1941, which documents the hard lives of three “tenant families” — cotton sharecroppers — in Alabama during the Great Depression.
She was nicknamed La Pequeña Rubia (“the little blond”) by Spanish soldiers and described by Life magazine as “pretty little Gerda Taro.” Yet Taro, a photographer whose life was cut short at the age of 26 during the Spanish Civil War, was far from dainty.
In Hebrew, the word for photographer, tzalam, is drawn from the word for image, tzelem, as used in the Bible in Genesis, referring to humans being created in the image of God. But the connection is more than about words and their roots. Photography encompasses the art of noticing, of seeing deeply, being present and alive to the moment. In capturing light in stunning ways, or the essence and spirit of people, there’s holiness too. For the viewer, the images have many layers of meaning, mysteries to uncode.