An exhibition entitled “Faces / Places / Identity: Portraits of Jews, 1975–1995” was displayed at Beit Hatfutsot in 2004. The exhibition included 65 portraits of Jews from all over the world. The portraits were selected from the Museum’s collection of photographs accumulated from temporary exhibitions, purchases and/or gifts from photographers, and visual documentation projects initiated by the Museum.
The portraits are the work of some 20 photographers from Israel and abroad, most of them Jewish. Some of them focus on “Jewish” photography; for others this subject is a subsidiary part of their work. The photographers emphasize their personal viewpoint, so their work represents a broad range of artistic notions of documentary photography. Among the best-known names are Mary Ellen Mark, Edward Serotta, and Joan Roth of the United States; Frédéric Brenner of France; Stanislaw Markowski of Poland; and Israelis Micha Bar-Am and Alex Levac. Many of the portraits were taken for photo-documentation projects of Jewish communities and include otherwise unknown persons individuals alongside world-renowned figures and cultural icons.
In addition to the human faces, the photographs record various aspects of the Jewish experience and reflect the trends and processes that characterized the Jewish world in the late Twentieth Century. The Jewish community of the United States is the most prominent in this exhibition, which includes selections from projects that document various groups and emphasize socio-cultural aspects.
Some of the photographers have an anthropological focus. Some go in for photo-reportage, while others search for the common denominator or the hidden thread that links various Jewish images. Others commemorate the Jewish image in places that no longer have any Jews. Many of the photographers say that capturing Jewish subjects is a means to examine their own link to Judaism and Jewish history; for some, it is an odyssey in search of their Jewish identity.
Over the years, Beit Hatfutsot has initiated several photo-documentation projects of Jewish and universal importance. From the outset it has been recognized as a meeting place for practitioners of “Jewish” photography and has played a central role among museums that collect and display photographs of Jewish subjects. This exhibition is intended to be the first in a series that will open the Museum’s unique photo collection to the public.