Shlyome-Zanvl Rappoport, known by his pen-name S. An-Sky (1863 – 1920), was not only “the father of Jewish anthropology and folklore,” but also the uncle of Jewish visual ethnography.
He took his nephew, Solomon Borisovich Iudovin (1892 – 1954), then a young man of 20, with him on his ethnographic expedition to Volynia, Podolia, and Kiev provinces as the expedition photographer. Iudovin took over 2000 photographs, most of which An-Sky deposited, together with the rest of the material he collected during the three research seasons in 1912 – 1914, in the museum of the Jewish Historical- Ethnographic Society (JHES) in St. Petersburg. However, apparently, Iudovin gave a portion of the photographs, for safe keeping, to the painter Natan Isaevich Al’tman (1889 – 1970). Upon his death, the theater designer Alexander Pasternak moved to his studio and there he found a trove of 350 photographs. He showed them to Alina Orlov who conducted research for a biography of Al’tman, and she, in turn, consulted with Viktor Kel’ner and Valerii Dymshits, both from Petersburg Judaica, a research center affiliated with the European University at St. Petersburg. They realized their provenence and value, acquired them for the institution and included them in a five volume collection Fotoarkhiv ekspeditsii An-skogo (St. Petersburg, 2005 – 2007). The 169 photographs in the present volume are taken from this collection, and they are accompanied by six informative and interpretive essays by members of the Petersburg Judaica. The photographs are of utmost importance. They include portraits, some as mug-shots for anthropological documentation, craftsmen staged at their works, teachers and children in traditional schools and views of shtetl homes and squares. An-Sky set out on his expedition to discover and recover the Jewish folk culture and traditions in order to make them available for modern Jewish artists as building blocks for the creation of modern national Jewish culture. 170 photographs.