web analytics
March 30, 2015 / 10 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Diaspora Pictures: Photographs By Chrystie Sherman

Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora:
Photographs by Chrystie Sherman. 92nd Street Y:
Milton J. Weill Art Gallery. Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. (212) 415-5500:

Call for Gallery hours. Until October 24, 2003.

 

There are Diasporas and then there are Diasporas. We Jews in the American Diaspora are fortunate to be exiled in the freest country in the world, with full religious freedom and the benefits of an affluent society. Our Torah communities are strong, healthy and growing in the midst of the majority of Jews who still identify as Jews, even as tragically large numbers of our brethren drift into the allures of assimilation and Jewish annihilation.

Other Diasporas struggle with a starker reality and simply hope to survive in any form. This “Other Diaspora” is the subject of Chrystie Sherman’s powerful photographic essay, Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora at the 92nd Street Y until October 24, 2003.

Sherman’s powerful compositions and compelling subjects make a strong case for the use of the portrait as a narrative medium in one of the strongest exhibitions of contemporary photography in recent memory. Her images engage the viewer with an unsentimental honesty
that elaborates upon the portrait format of modern masters such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Both these artists utilize eye contact and emotional engagement of the subject against a neutral modernist background as the foundation of visual communication. Sherman expands this vocabulary with the introduction of an engaging social context. Each of her subjects is
situated in an environment that, by means of composition and potent symbols, narrates the individual image into the complex fabric of Jewish life often poised at the very edge of survival.

Chrystie Sherman is a professional photographer with 25 years experience in photojournalism and set photography for public television. After working on portraits of Holocaust survivors on the Lower East Side through Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, she became intrigued by the idea of the forced dispersions and suffering of the Diaspora. Exploring the backwaters
of the Diaspora, she photographed in the former Soviet Union in 2000, Cuba in 2001, then Uzbekistan in 2002, and this year in India in what has become The Diaspora Essay, to be published in 2005.

She sought out dwindling Jewish communities ravaged by oppression, poverty and emigration of much of the younger generation. In spite of this diminution, there were those Jews who choose to stay behind and maintain a Jewish life in their homeland. They are her subjects in
the 27 black and white prints shown here.

Holocaust Survivor, Teplik (2000) stands alone in her garden. She lost most of her family during the war and has lived alone since in a small wooden house. The photograph’s composition shapes the subject’s staunch determination to survive in the face of unremitting
suffering. Her figure is pushed to the right of the frame, assaulted by the curved wash line and the leaning overgrown plants. It is as if nature itself conspires to topple her. And yet, her determined eyes and steady glance at the camera tells us that she will persevere. Indeed, she is rooted to the earth by the dark shape of her dress, clinging to her homeland in spite of all odds.

Explicitly Jewish content in these powerful images is frequently submerged in subtle allusions. Woman with Bullock, Alibag (2003) is typical in its disarming impression of an Indian rural scene. This illusion begins to evaporate as we notice how the line of the rope carefully winds its way from the lower left foreground (our visual entrance to the image), through the young
woman’s hands, up through the beast’s horns and finally to the sky at the top of the image. This motif echoes a far more ancient Jewish reality of taking a prized animal up to the Temple in Jerusalem for sacrifice. The finely dressed maiden, tenderly posing with a valuable beast,
ennobles a banal reality and allows it to resonate through the corridors of Jewish time.

Symbols, strikingly simple in Sherman’s photographs, provide a narrative background in Samuel the Butcher, Old Havana (2002). The Magen David clearly identifies the shochet just as the rooster creates an ample allusion to the vicissitudes of the Jewish year. Perhaps it is the extreme verticality of the composition that makes the handsome rooster seem a likely candidate for Kaparas just before the Yom Kippur. Surely the butcher himself seems strong and determined to work for at least another year in the only kosher store in Cuba.

The Biblical narrative itself arises in Sarah and Her Indian Servant, Kochin (2003). The startling contrast between the European face of Sarah and the darkly beautiful Indian servant brings to mind the distinction we can imagine between Sarah our matriarch and her Egyptian maidservant Hagar. How well did they know each other in middle age, before Hagar bore Ishmael? The gestures of their hands and tilt of their heads echo their closeness. Was there originally a bond of affection and trust in that distant past as we see here in these two beautiful women? Sherman’s photograph plunges us into complicated relationships of today even as it reveals the complexities of our familial ancestry.

Chrystie Sherman is exploring in photography what it means to be a Jew on the edges of Jewish existence. Her photographs of the graceful Bukharian housewife Erev Shabbos, the hands of a Jewish bride in Bombay intricately decorated with henna, and even aged resistance fighters in the Ukraine all touch on issues of self-identity in a foreign environment. These communities are barely holding on, and yet the strength of the people, expressed in the power and sureness of her images, lends a disproportionate hope for the future of this Diaspora. Each portrait expands into an engrossing narrative and in the hands of this artist; each narrative
implies not only a past, but a future as well.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Diaspora Pictures: Photographs By Chrystie Sherman”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
One-third of polled Republicans see President Obama as the biggest imminent threat to the USA.
One-Third of GOP Voters See Obama Worse for US than Assad and Putin
Latest Sections Stories
Neuman-Rabbi-M-Gary

Are we allowed to lie for shalom bayis? It would seem so, but what might be a healthy guideline for when it’s okay and when it’s not?

book-To-Fill-The-Sky-With-Stars

The connection between what I experienced as a high school teenager and the adult I am today did not come easy to me.

Respler-032715

Isn’t therapy about being yourself; aren’t there different ways for people to communicate with each other?

South-Florida-logo

Jack was awarded a blue and gold first-place trophy, appropriately topped off with a golden bee.

Participating in ManiCures during the school day may feel like a break from learning, but the intended message to the students was loud and clear. Learning and chesed come in all forms, and can be fun.

Building campaign chairman Jack Gluck has led the effort over many years.

When using an extension cord always make sure to use the correct rated extension cord.

There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.

Szold was among the founders and leaders (she served on its executive committee) of Ichud (“Unity”), a political group that campaigned against the creation of an independent, sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael.

My friend is a strong and capable Jewish woman, but she acted with a passivity that seemed out of character.

“If you don’t stand straight, you’ll never get a husband.”

First, sit down with your helpers and a pen and paper and break the jobs down into small parts.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/diaspora-pictures-photographs-by-chrystie-sherman/2003/10/31/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: