Jewish Journal


February 22, 2001

A ‘Life’ in Pictures


Renmants of a wall in Vilna Lithuania. Photo by Morris Kagan

Renmants of a wall in Vilna Lithuania. Photo by Morris Kagan

As a set photographer, Morris Kagan has shot some of the most recognizable stars in the world. His post-production work has covered the gamut -- movies like "Titanic" and "Lost World: Jurassic Park."

"A Life of Photography," now exhibiting at the Consulate General of Germany, presents the other side of Kagan's visual career where, as a photojournalist and artist, Kagan draws on his own experience as the son of Holocaust survivors (who met in an Estonian labor camp) and a past president of Second Generation.

"Wherever I go, my camera goes," Kagan told The Journal.

Indeed, Kagan's worldly camera was there in 1989, on what would have been Adolph Hitler's 100th birthday, in the very Braunau, Austria apartment complex where the Nazi dictator was born. And on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, that camera captured Helmut Kohl delivering a speech -- the powerful image became a Jewish Journal cover.

"Clearly we grew up with signs of the Holocaust around our home," said Kagan, whose late father's remembrance-themed artwork hangs in the houses of people such as Steven Spielberg. "But all of our lives we were told that the Germans were murderers, it's in their nature. Something didn't sit right with me. I needed to know that this next generation of Germans were not like their parents."

In fact, Kagan forged a friendship with Cornelius Schnauber, whose father was a Nazi, that has translated into nearly two decades of German-Jewish dialogues with other second-generation Jews and Germans.

If anything, Kagan hopes that the Holocaust-themed work in "A Life" will "convey the emotion, the faces of survivors and also those who may have been the other side, the perpetrators."

More than 30 images will comprise "A Life of Photography," which will feature Holocaust-related imagery, but also captures the 1992 L.A. riots and an L.A. gay/lesbian parade. Ultimately, the creative rewards for Kagan are "being able to observe something and reproduce it as faithfully as possible and as honestly as possible. I don't want to romanticize things, yet I want to convey the emotion, the tone of the moment as much as possible and not misrepresent what we see."

Morris Kagan's "A Life of Photography" has its opening reception on Thurs., Feb. 22, from 5 p.m.-7 p.m, at the Consulate General of Germany. The exhibit runs through April 5. For more information, call (323) 930-2703.

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