Page 99 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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JULIA HIRSCH
Jews in Black and White, and Color:
Books of Photographs, 1968-1978
B
ook s
o f
pho to g r a ph s
may contain a text bu t make the ir chief
impact th rough images. Pho tographs may be documents, illustra­
tions, o r works o f a r t — term s used gingerly by critics who often
argue over the ir application — bu t pho tographs are also messages
whose meaning can be as ambiguous as words and as disturbing as
facts. Photographs o f Jews, synagogues, tombstones inscribed in
Hebrew, and Israeli landscapes are seldom free o f emotional
resonance. Most pho tog raphs derive the ir merit from the sense
they give us o f having cap tu red the whitest hea t o f drama, o r the
softest stillness o f serenity; they always make us ask “And then
what happened?” T h e answers fo r Jews have been too few. Pho­
tography, which crams the fleetingness o f time into the thinnest
o f spaces, heightens ou r awareness o f vulnerability. Photography
seems to be made fo r Jews. T h e books o f Jewish photographs
which appeared between 1968 and 1978 both stress and challenge
this affinity.
T he volumes listed below rep resen t various in terpre tations o f
Jewish experience. But the ir appearance also results from a new
technology and a new aesthetic. The 1960s and 70s witness the
ascendency o f image over word. Without what Daniel J . Boorstin
has called the “graphic revolution” these books would doubtless
not have arisen in such number; without the development o f new,
relatively inexpensive forms o f book production , these volumes
would not have had the circulation they now enjoy. T he 60s made
pho tography books accessible, and the spirit o f the age — which
p re fe r red the visual to the linear — gave to photography an
au thority and influence it had not had before.
Specific events and attitudes o f the decade dictate the content
and tone o f these books o fJewish photographs. T h e 1960s are the
era o f Eichmann; o f the Six-Day War; o f the JDL and o f Jewish
consciousness-raising. In the 1960s Jews go public: they become