What makes a Jewish photographer Jewish?

The question is explored in the following book, which I’ve reviewed for Jewish Book World.

AFTER WEEGEE: ESSAYS ON CONTEMPORARY JEWISH AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHERS, by Daniel Morris. Syracuse University Press, 2011.

Professor Morris provides significant insights into and detailed, provocative readings of the photographic art and documentary projects of the imposing photographers discussed in his ten essays. He is sure-handed in surveying their technical and thematic range, keeping his critical language accessible even while projecting an authoritative, scholarly voice. However, the effort of dealing with the Jewish factor is strained and oddly reductive.

Morris notes, over and over again, the social consciousness of these image makers and their concern with the human condition at the margins. The homeless, the dispossessed, the marginalized subjects of their documentary projects are relentlessly tied to the ostensible outsider identity of the photographers, a status that is a consequence of their Jewishness – by definition. (Annie Liebovitz’s celebrity gallery is an exception here, although the show business world her best-known work explores is also considered a Jewish cultural product.)

It could just as well be that people on one side of a camera are almost invariably outsiders to the subject communities they approach and record.

Morris’s study, then, succeeds best as a series of essays and not so well as a thesis-mongering whole. Aside from Liebovits, Arthur Fellig (Weegee), Bruce Davidson, Jim Goldberg, Mel Rosenthal, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Allen Ginsberg, Tyagan Miller, Marc Asnin, and Mary Ellen Mark are at the center of these passionately wrought essays.

 Illustrations, index, introduction, works cited. PKJ

NOTE: The Jewish Book Council has enhanced its web site and is now a most attractive and useful place to explore.  I’m attaching the link to my review, and you can find others by me by clicking on my name.  After Weegee

2 Comments

Filed under Authors and Books, Jewish Themes

2 responses to “What makes a Jewish photographer Jewish?

  1. Ann Weiss

    Phil, You find the best and most interesting ones!! Thanks for sending and sending best wishes back to you and yours too!! A & J

  2. It is my pleasure to offer items of interest. Hope you are having a great early summer.

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