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.
In this issue of Text/Context, we look at Jews and photography, and the enduring, powerful images that have been created. Photographer Penny Wolin raises a key question as to why so many Jews are drawn to
the field of photography; her piece previews her work-in-progress of crossing the country, interviewing photographers.
We caught up with her as she was traveling in her van through the Southwest. Photographer and critic William Meyers visited the photo archive of the American Joint Distribution Committee and poked around through the riches. In Jerusalem, Stuart Schoffman reads a photograph of his great-grandfather as text. Art historian Caroline Lagnado profiles photographers engaged in documenting far-flung Jewish communities, some on the verge of disappearing. They bear witness with empathy, inspiring viewers to imagine other lives.
The cover features the work of the self-taught artist Rebecca Lepkoff, who has been photographing New York City since the 1930s. Scholar Deborah Dash Moore focuses on her images of street life on the Lower East Side.
Many thanks to all of the photographers for so graciously lending their work. Selecting the images, I had in mind photographer Robert Frank’s line, “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
I’m very happy to correct an unfortunate error in this space last month, in referring to Rabbi Herbert Weiner, author of “9 1/2 Mystics.” Rabbi Weiner is living in Jerusalem, about to turn 90 and always writing. May he enjoy many years of good health and blessing, until 120.
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- Sandee Brawarsky
To read this month's Text/Context stories, click on a link below