Csaba and Otti at the Hanukka Dance in Budapest, 1989
Young and old couples in a dense community glide across a floor covering it completely. Quick and joyful movements of the dancing couples in the background result in blurred figures conveying not detail, but a pulsating joyful energy. At the center of the composition and set apart from the other dancers is a young couple. They hold each other closely, smiling in the midst of their own dance. They are Csaba and Otti, two Jewish youths performing a Hanukka dance at the Hotel Gellert in Budapest. Edward Serotta’s photography centers around capturing Jewish experiences and history to preserve and document it for later generations.
For Csaba and Otti at the Hanukka Dance in Budapest, Serotta had just relocated to Hungary a year before in 1988 as part of his project of documenting Jewish life in central europe. He had just finished photographing Jewish communities in Romania and would later publish these images as a collection that depicts Jewish lives, communities, and experiences after the holocaust.
Still in the wake of a devastating and abhorrent moment in history Serotta captures a photo of a united community experiencing palpable joy. Smiles decorate faces, the figures Serotta is capturing are not merely surviving, they are thriving. The movement, the blurs, the singled out figures of Csaba and Otti, everything about the image radiates celebration and bliss. Given the current state of isolation, it is a relief to see without jealousy a packed room of festive figures not hindered by social distancing.
Untitled (Violin Teacher, Dmitri Pronin), 1983
A man plays the violin in the middle of an orchard. A tree on the left with broken branches is at eye level with the man, standing side by side looking like it is playing the violin. Perhaps a man is teaching the tree. The grey-tone sky naturally turns one’s eyes into the center, sheds a soft light over the man, further emphasizes his solitude.
Pavel Krivtsov started his career as a Russian photojournalist where the visual capabilities of the wide-angle were highly appreciated. However, wide-angle shooting is rather capricious, and it often creates unaesthetic distortions, which Krivtsov managed to control and neutralize. In order to construct harmonious photographs with the wide-angle shooting, Krivtsov adroitly utilizes light and shadow and creates compositional distractions to divert gazes. Modern photography researchers find his photographs unsurpassed. And this can be found in this photograph as well. By using the wide-angle lens, the trees in the background naturally seem to converge around the man, as if they are paying attention to his performance.
After the Stalin period, the personal voice in photography re-emerged from the late 1940s through the 1970s. Photographers at that time strived to depict the ordinary lives without any political intent. Krivtsov was known for his emotionally charged humane photographs. The elements featured in his photographs include diverse subjects and geographies, but every photograph shared a similar sentiment, consolidation. A fellow photographer Lev Sherstennikov reminisced about how Krivtsov showed attention and understanding, like a confessor.
Sensita Making a Wish, 1993 from "Married, Not Dead"
A young girl is center to the frame, blowing a dandelion to the wind. The image is black and white.
From Steve Hart’s collection A Bronx Family Album: The Impact of AIDS this photograph depicts another of Sensa’s daughters, Sensita, just after Sensa’s death. Shortly after this photo was taken, Sensita and her sister Jessica were removed from the custody of their stepfather after the bureau of child welfare found that his new girlfriend had struck Jessica in the head. The girls were moved to their aunt’s house and placed into a therapy program through a New York AIDS support organization. Ultimately the girls were placed into the foster system and separated.
In 1989 Steve Hart, an award-winning documentary photographer, was asked to photograph a support group in New York for people living with HIV and AIDS.
There is a light at the end of the struggle, with uplifted community, intention, and care. We celebrate each other’s joy and root for each other’s success. We sustain in an effort to seek joy, community, love, hope, and creativity.
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