For someone unfamiliar with the works of Roman Vishniac and Frédéric Brenner, this slim wistful volume will be an introduction to narrative photography — of Jewish art and symbolism, portraits of individuals, families, cemeteries, social life and customs, on a Euro/U.S‑centered canvas.
The book’s unusual and noteworthy second half is a “Diasporic Investigation,” a dialogue, or perhaps a three-way conversation among the reader, the author, and his quoted sources. Here the sharpness of Francisco’s written observations matches his beautifully printed, recent, and sometimes iconoclastic photographs. Example: the Jews leaving Biblical Egypt were “ruptured from their origins,” unmarked mass graves in Poland are the “pith of loss.” Among these words that pierce the reader, however, is a startling editorial decision, when the author quotes (frequently) his own notebooks, the text uses a lower-case j in Jewish, an i for himself, and t in Torah, a very 21st century decision, it would seem. 72 b/w plates, notes, acknowledgement.