In this book, Terry Kurgan begins with a family snapshot made by her Polish grandfather in 1939 on the eve of the war. Presenting this evocative image as a repository of multiple histories public, private, domestic, familial, and generational she sets off on a series of meditations on photography that give us startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, what provocations they contain. Each essay takes up the thread of the story of her familys epic journey across Europe as they flee Nazi occupation, until they reach Cape Town. Kurgans essays are part memoir, part travelogue, part analysis, and they demonstrate her sophisticated understanding of a medium that has long engaged her as an artist.
Everyone is Present
Everyone is Present is a series of essays using a war-time diary and a collection of family photographs left by the author’s grandfather to create a work fusing text and image, which creates a moving family memoir and reflection on photography and memory. A cross genre work that draws on the author’s twenty-five years of visual arts practice and writing, the volume itself is a work of art.
Each essay builds a gripping family history, beginning with the German invasion of Poland, as the family traveled through Romania, Turkey and India to South Africa where the family’s transit visas finally ran out. By fusing this account of the Jewish refugee journey with a detailed reading of seemingly ordinary photographs (which actually hold secrets) the author teases out details of her family (who typically never spoke about their wartime experiences) in extreme conditions. Through this process, the reader begins to understand what was lost, what was found, and the relationship between fate and character in forging a new life in an unintended place.
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