Menachem Kahana, Photographs
Kahana began photographing the ultra-orthodox community in 1995, following a trip to the Jerusalem region, when, on reaching a spring, he saw ultra-orthodox people bathing in it. This surprising sight piqued his curiosity and he began wondering about the concealed life of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside the routine circumstances in which we frequently see them. There is nothing like the camera for opening locked doors.
The deeper Kahana delved into the subject the more the picture broadened: heders, houses of study, synagogues, different and bizarre rituals such as redemption of the firstborn son, pilgrimages to the graves of the righteous, weddings, circumcision ceremonies, funerals, demonstrations, holidays and the routine life in which he, through a photographer's eye, discovered interesting new angles. Kahana's ties with his subjects gradually became stronger. He created a close and trustful relationship with them, no easy feat with the ultra-orthodox community which regularly faces ridicule, derision and disrespect from secular Jews. Initially the community opened its doors to him, but over time its members began trusting him and even learned how to use his photographs for their own purposes. Whereas in the beginning Kahana had to explore the subject on his own, initiate visits to various events, often enduring confrontations with his subjects and even suffering their rejection, he has now become a respected and accepted individual who is often invited to participate and photograph.
Quite a few photographers have been fascinated by the unique and intriguing life of the ultra-orthodox, but Kahana managed to investigate their world in depth. His curiosity and tenacity command admiration. He often gets up in the middle of the night and crosses the West Bank to photograph a pilgrimage to Joseph's tomb in Nablus, or a remote Palestinian village in which, according to tradition, one of the righteous in buried.
In addition to being a fine photographer Kahana displays keen sensitivity toward the feelings of his subjects. He shows consideration for their modesty and never attempts to deceive them.
His photograph collection is unique: It is comprehensive and covers numerous aspects of the life of Jerusalem Hassidism - the object of his photographs. The community, which to the outside spectator seems monotonous and rigid, opens up before us in all its glory and beauty, albeit with all its weaknesses too. The documentary importance of the photographs is significant but no less so is Kahana's photographic and aesthetic value, for he is above all an excellent photographer.
Curator: Alex Levac
Opens: August 5
Closes: October 30, 2009