A rich, well-documented collection for students of photography and Jewish culture.

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Descendants of Light


Through interviews, portraits, essays, and photos, this large-format book explores the role of Jewish ancestry in the work of more than 70 leading American photographers.

Wolin (The Jews of Wyoming: Fringe of the Diaspora, 2000), a commercial, editorial, and documentary photographer, noticed that any list of influential American photographers would include many Jewish names and wondered why: “What could bearing Jewish ancestral roots possibly have to do with the skills involved in being a photographer?” This book, the result of her five-year project investigating the question, includes interviews, family photos, Wolin’s portraits of her subjects, and (in a separate section) an iconic example for each, presented in a large, generous format. “The Claim of a Jewish Eye,” an essay by Alan Trachtenberg of Yale University, discusses problematic issues inherent in such a project, though in a way that raises more questions than it answers—as when quoting other writers’ claims about difference: Jewish photographers are funky and restless, Gentiles “more settled.” Trachtenberg calls these claims “raffish” and “dazzling,” but they could also be labeled vastly, unhelpfully oversimplified. Some of Wolin’s subjects, especially those who experienced pressure to assimilate, see little or no connection between a Jewish background and their artistry. But for those who do perceive a link, the Jewish experience of being an outsider—someone who is necessarily watching others—is significant, both as a stance from which to observe and because photography was, like many other arts, a profession open to Jews. Also important, they say, is the Jewish intellectual tradition of humanistic questioning and interest in existential problems. The entries, arranged alphabetically, offer an intriguing range of opinions, styles, eras, and insights together with large, beautifully reproduced photographs. Reading photographers on their own work delivers the book’s most intriguing moments. For example, Joel Meyerowitz comments that “Photographing is about the potential meaning of things that are at loose in the world....Intuition is a form of mysticism,” while for Toba Tucker, “Photography is my great identity. The camera is the answer.”

A rich, well-documented collection for students of photography and Jewish culture.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9676357-2-9

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Crazy Woman Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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