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Jewish Journal

No place like home . Report from Passow exhibition

Pavel Pustelnik

June 1, 2012 | 2:33 am

Black and white, completely different from all the nuances and shadows that they create. There is not a black and white vision of who contemporary Jews are, and Judah Passow shows that perfectly while taking the viewer for a trip to the Jewish UK.

It is not a common thing to meet a photographer and get a private tour of his current exhibition. However, Passow, a winner of four World Press Photos awards, was present today at The Jewish Museum in London telling stories about his pictures. The project entitled ‘No Place Like Home’ has taken him two years to be complete. While walking through the exhibition you have an impression that one day, this graphic testimony will be displayed as ‘this is how it used to be in the 21st century’. And how is it today?

Passow unearths Jewish lifestyles that used to be kept secret. Meticulously, with a surgeon’s precision, he opens the world that stretches from the Orthodox Jews preparations for a Bar Mitzvah to Jewish gay couples dancing passionately. He embeds himself in the reality of the individuals he immortalizes. The outstanding naturalness is made possible by the meaningful relationships he established while working on ‘No Place Like Home’. There is one very special photograph entitled ‘37 minutes old’. Devorah Rachel Taylor is holding her newborn baby. The intimate atmosphere can be compared only with Vermeer’s way of approaching his models. The first contact, the first breaths of the baby and mother’s fulfillment are strong to the extent that while looking at the picture you can’t help but stand silent and engage yourself in living the joy. ‘The father of the child texted me when the labour has started. I have just jumped to a taxi and went to the hospital’ says Passow. London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Warwick… In two years the whole Jewish Great Britain has been explored. Passow reveals a more subtle Jewish lifestyle. He does not show jolly Hanukkah parties or formal celebrations in the Synagogues. His Jews are proud of being Jewish and they say loudly ‘This is us today, this is how we live, this is what we do and we are proud of that’. No posed family pictures of doubtful veracity. Some Jews he shows are angry as they do not like Easy Jet launching route to Tel Aviv, some are young soldiers unsure of the future. Some are excited like a couple preparing for their wedding. Passow captures brilliantly emotions that unite the Jews of all walks of life. Some of them are Orthodox, some Reformed, some not religious at all, but the author finds ways to unwind his panorama of modern jewry in the UK.

Passow explores a slaughterhouse in Luton where the butchers are awkwardly heroic in their mundane work. He shows a changing room of Maccabi Lions team where sweaty bodies are filling the frame. It could be any changing room, virtually anywhere.But little bits and pieces that create identity give clues of the histories the individuals have, something as simple as a tattoo. Shots taken in colour have been turned into black and white. The classic documentary style brilliantly preserves much more than just what has been shown. The relationships Passow has been embarking on during his project have been translated into 98 pictures that are giving a genuine account of the contemporary Jews in Great Britain. The British Jewish life has never been depicted with such a intimate touch.

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Jews visiting Central & Eastern Europe frequently come with stereotypes and prejudices about the region.  In particular, group heritage and education tours for young Jews...

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