Visu­al Arts

The Jew­ish Iden­ti­ty Project: New Amer­i­can Photography

Susan Shevlowe, ed.
  • Review
By – October 18, 2011
The exhi­bi­tion com­mem­o­rat­ed by this cat­a­log opened at the Jew­ish Muse­um, New York, and will be trav­el­ing to the Skir­ball Cul­tur­al Cen­ter, Los Ange­les, on its way to end­ing at the Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Muse­um in San Fran­cis­co, in 2007.

Most of these pho­tographs are beau­ti­ful stud­ies of faces; a few indi­cate their post- 2000 esthet­ic. In fair­ly even dis­tri­b­u­tion, there are clas­sic shots and funky ones, bring­ing the artist Judy Chicago’s works to mind, but no abstract/​geometric/​textural works are in evi­dence. Much atten­tion has been paid to lay­out, typog­ra­phy, and over­all design, as befits a muse­um book. 

The seri­ous theme is some­what belied by the cov­er, a moment under a hup­pa canopy­ing a cheer­ful and decid­ed­ly mul­ti­eth­nic wed­ding par­ty with an unseen groom. A rich pho­to­graph­ic treat, the book is in a gen­er­ous but man­age­able 11”x13” for­mat, aug­ment­ed by care­ful­ly anno­tat­ed sec­tions: Fram­ing Jew­ish­ness: Pho­tog­ra­phy and the Bound­aries of Com­mu­ni­ty,” and Oy, Are We a Pluribus? Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and Amer­i­can Jews.” 

Inclu­sion of a sec­tion on the inner work­ings of exhi­bi­tion prepa­ra­tion (gen­er­al­ly fas­ci­nat­ing to the lay pub­lic), fol­lowed by detailed pho­tog­ra­phers’ cre­den­tials, plus the light­heart­ed­ness men­tioned above, con­tribute to this book’s unusu­al appeal. 

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

Discussion Questions