This photo series tackles the decay of communication between my Saba and myself after his passing. The letter featured in these photograms professes my grief as well as my love for him. I initially wrote the letter in English but then used Google Translate to translate it into his beloved Hebrew, however; as result of my unpracticed Hebrew and the lack of nuance in google translate the letter itself is almost complete gibberish. With each passing re-imaging of the letter loses even more clarity until finally, it is difficult to decipher any words or what the original image might have been. The decomposition from the first image, a clear and distinguishable photo of my grandparents, to the last image, a muddied and jumbled trace of an already hazy and unsettled letter mimics the increasing separation between my Saba and me, as well as the slow fading of my own memories of him.
The first image in the series is a photograph of a photograph. The original photograph was taken in Israel, 1961 and the re-photograph was taken in Los Angeles, 2019. The rest of the images are photograms made by placing a letter on light sensitive paper, exposing the paper in the darkroom, then developing the image. This process was repeated over and over again with each resulting photogram becoming the image from which the next photogram was developed, this continued until the original letter was barely recognizable as the initial image.
In the home
Exposing the banal to the critical lens of a camera reveals the dark and ominous qualities of everyday life. The ephemera of life begins to take on new meaning; a dining room left empty feels desolate, a pair of boots set on a bureau becomes abandoned, and a shadow in a shower becomes haunting. But these images maintain sense of serenity through their stillness. Time moves in a linear fashion, but photography does not. It can capture anywhere from fractions of seconds to hours, snatching images from the infinite march of time, introducing a completely new temporal perspective and allowing viewers to reassess the way they see the world. This new time signature introduces an unnatural placidity which creates an image full of apprehension and tension. This series aimed to expose and dissect the dichotomy of odd and the mundane through image stills of domesticity.
This summer my Saba (Grandfather) passed away at the age of eighty-one. It was the first time I experienced death intimately and it affected me more deeply than I expected. From a young age, I was acutely aware of the dramatic differences in my youth, circumstances, and life trajectory from that of my Saba’s. He was born in 1937 in Transylvania, Romania. By the age of five, he was placed in a concentration camp with his mother and father who, by utilizing the father’s usefulness as forester, survived. My Saba rarely talked about this portion of his life. In his death, I feel part of my Jewish identity has died.
In processing his death, I turned to photography to endeavor to process his absence. My Saba was a tangible, living connection to my heritage and Judaism, but beyond that he was an excellent grandfather. I no longer have the verbal communication and physical connection I had with Saba when he was alive. Now my relation to him is through memory and the genetic imprint I carry of him within my own body. I cannot grapple with my faith and my loss internally, I feel a strong urge to expose my thoughts and make them visible to the outside world.
The photo series about my Saba’s passing begins with a photograph of a photograph of my grandparents; it is an invitation to the viewers to acquaint themselves with the man who inspired this project. But because this photo is not the live physical people nor is it the original photo, information is lost in the translation. This degradation of information mimics the fact that my grandfather’s unshared stories are now lost forever and even the stories he shared with me that are still remembered are now tales of tales and by definition are not faithful to the original.
The next section of photos takes on faith and Judaism in my life. The images depict in obscured manners two important rituals of the Jewish faith that my Saba valued. First, viewed through a sheet, is a shadow of me performing the blessing of the Cohenim (Jewish Priests) in which the Cohenim filter the light of God through their hands to bless their congregation. Second, is a long exposure self-portrait of me reciting the traditional Jewish prayer, the Sh’ma. These images, though they are not mimetic representations of these actions, do not devalue the significance of these rituals. Although my Jewish practice is not identical to my Saba’s, it is not incorrect nor would it not make my Saba proud.
The middle portion of the project deals with the imagery of his funeral and the idea of his phantasmal presence. My Saba’s funeral was simple. His body was wrapped in the shroud of his Talit, the one he received for his Bar Mitzvah and used daily for his prayers throughout his life, and then placed in the ground to be covered with dirt and marked by pebbles. In the two following images, I reenact the visuals of his funeral, wrapping myself in a shroud, in order to make sense of my Saba’s passing and to try to strip away the fear I have of death and disintegration.
The final images respond to the concept of life after death. Here I try to poke fun at our society’s serious views about death. What does it mean to haunt your posterity as a ghost? There is, of course, the silly visual imagery of spirits in white sheets haunting. But spiritually what does it mean to maintain a connection with someone once they have passed?
My goal with this project was two-fold. The first was to process my loss and try to understand the future of my relationship with my Saba. The second was to create a visual catalogue of my emotions surrounding Saba as I remember him now rather than try and reach for shreds of faded memories in the future.
Summer Families '17
As school ends and summertime begins, the city is transformed. The heat drives people out of their homes and on to the streets. Unbound by school and work people are free to celebrate, explore, and just hang out. This is particularly apparent for families as parents take their children out of the house and explore new environments. Parents are free to take their children on adventures and experience the curiosity, wonderment, and sheer excitement that only children seem to have. Those brief moments are what I sought to capture, moments of family bonding and memories being made. A mother shares a funny picture with her son. A father goes on a theme park ride with his daughter. A grandmother lifts her grandson up to see the Brooklyn Bridge. As parents reminisce about their own childhoods and the children create memories of their own, each moment is precious.
My own fondest childhood memories were made during summer break; going on outings with my own family to New York City attractions like Coney Island, The Bronx Zoo, and The South Street Seaport. Although I rarely remember what I exactly did on those trips I remember the company of my mother, father, and brother perfectly. This project aimed to capture snapshots of other families creating their own fond summertime memories.
Family eats lunch at Paul's Daughter on Coney Island. (August 4th, 2017)
Parents push a stroller past fish mural on Coney Island Boardwallk. (August 4th, 2017)
Woman pushes daughter in stroller and talks on the phone in Dumbo. (August 10th, 2017)
Mothers and children play in a warehouse in DUMBO. (August 10th, 2017)
Three generations of a family talk near Carousel in DUMBO. (August 10th, 2017)
Grandparents sit with stroller on Coney Island Boardwalk. (August 4th, 2017)
Mother and son admire Brooklyn Bridge. (August 8th, 2017)
Grandmother lifts grandson up to see the Manhattan Bridge. (August 8th, 2017)
Father looks at phone while son plays in DUMBO. (August 8th, 2017)
Mother talks to daughter in the Washington Square Park fountain. (August 2nd, 2017)
Mother washes sand off daughter on Coney Island Boardwalk. (August 4th, 2017)
Girls talk and admire the Coney Island beach. (August 4th, 2017)
Mother and son play carnival game at Coney Island. (August 4th, 2017)
Daughter plays Coney Island ringtoss as father (out of frame) watches. (August 4th, 2017)
Father and daughter on Coney Island ride. (August 4th, 2017)
Children and caretaker watch friends on Coney Island ride. (August 4th, 2017)
A series of photos taken during multiple protests and rallies following the election of Donald Trump.
Immigration Ban Protest at Foley Square (February 1st)
Immigration Ban Protest at Foley Square (February 1st)
LGBT Solidarity Rally at Stonewall Inn (February 4th)