I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions

Overview

Old family photo albums are fascinating. If you're lucky enough to own one, you've probably spent hours poring overhalf-faded black-and-white portraits of your ancestors, searching for similarities in their facial features and wondering whattheir lives might have been. Unfortunately, not every family has such easy access to their own history. Photographer Rafael Goldchain's Polish-Jewish ancestors emigrated to South America in the 1930s, and many others perished in Polandduring the Nazi regime. Also lost in the ...

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Overview

Old family photo albums are fascinating. If you're lucky enough to own one, you've probably spent hours poring overhalf-faded black-and-white portraits of your ancestors, searching for similarities in their facial features and wondering whattheir lives might have been. Unfortunately, not every family has such easy access to their own history. Photographer Rafael Goldchain's Polish-Jewish ancestors emigrated to South America in the 1930s, and many others perished in Polandduring the Nazi regime. Also lost in the turmoil of war and emigration were most of the portraits of his extended family.When Goldchain became a parent himself, he decided to make up for this lack of evidence and recreate the lost generations of the past, in the present.

Rafael Goldchain's I Am My Family is a family album of traditional portrait photographs with an unconventional twist: the only subject is Goldchain himself. In an elaborate process involving genealogical research, the use of makeup, hair styling, costume, and props, Goldchain transforms himself into his ancestors and captures their personifications with the camera. Taking some liberties with historical accuracy, Goldchain has assembled a fascinating cast of characters: from his short-story-writing grandfather, to his great-aunts Pola and Fela, to the Rabbi Gur's nephew in wedding dress, Goldchain reinvents himself over and over again. These beautifully reproduced self-portraits trace the evolution of Jewish culture from tradition to modernity and invite us to engage the history of a family decimated and scattered by the traumatic events of the 20th century. Featuring an insightful essay by curator Martha Langford, the portraits are complemented by a selection of the archival images on which they are based as well as selections from the artist's handwritten sketchbooks.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Photographer Goldchain describes his family history as one "defined by exile"-many of his Polish-Jewish ancestors immigrated to North and South America; most of those who stayed in Europe perished in the Holocaust. The photographer conceived this "family album" as a means of rebuilding his "self-identity through affiliation with Polish-born ancestors and East European Jewry." Working with reminiscences from elderly relatives, old photographs, his own memories and imagination, he has created a series of formal studio portraits in which he-with the help of makeup, elaborate costuming and digital retouching-poses as his relatives from the 19th century on. While a few images have the look of amateur theatrics, most of the images are deeply affecting; Goldchain summons up youth, age, heartbreak and hope, and his features, the one constant, reappear in every photograph to suggest family resemblance and continuity. Accompanying narratives lend an almost novelistic depth to the series of photographs, and an appendix that includes production stills, his jottings and pages of vintage family snapshots rounds out this fascinating, commemorative project. 56 duotone and 72 b&w illustrations. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568987385
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
  • Publication date: 9/3/2008
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Santiago, Chile, artist Rafael Goldchain is the program coordinator of the Applied Photography Program at Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Oakville, Ontario. Goldchain's photographs have been exhibited internationally and his work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Bibliothèque Nationale of France, the Canadian Museum for Contemporary Photography, and New York's Museum of Modern Art.

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