KlezKanada Yiddish Summer Festival

In addition to showing photographs, I had screenings of two films, my first film, A. M. Klein: The Poet As Landscape, and my latest, Song of the Lodz Ghetto. I also spoke on several panels, one with Sara Tauben who discussed her research for her book on Montreal synagogues, Traces of the Past, which contains a portfolio of my photographs. I particpated on two other panels, one dealing with cultural work and impressions of Jewish life today in Poland, and a roundtable discussion about Jewish filmmaking, with Gary Beitel and Eric Anjou.

Song of the Lodz Ghetto: Premiere in Poland

My documentary film, Song of the Lodz Ghetto, finally had its long-awaited (awaited by me) premiere in Poland in early September.  The screening was sponsored by the Dialogue Centre of Lodz whose mandate is to foster intercultural connections between the city’s four historic ethnic groups: Poles, Jews, Germans and Russians. The screening, with Polish sub-titles, was highly successful and attracted about 135 viewers to a modern state-of-the-art cinema that seats only about 100. People were sitting in the aisles and not a sound was heard in the audience (except appropriate reactions) for the film’s entire two hour running time. Most moving for me was that the audience included members of the family of Yankele Herszkowicz, the famous street singer of the Lodz Ghetto, whose life story forms a major part of the documentary. Because of the audience demand, I anticipate there will be another screening in Lodz sometime soon.

Toronto’s Heritage Streetscapes: Can They Be Saved?

Three prominent figures concerned with Toronto’s development and the preservation of neighbourhoods discuss the uncertain future of Toronto’s heritage streetscapes. The past decade has seen the most rapid redevelopment of downtown Toronto in more than half a century which has altered beyond recognition the appearance and character of many parts of the city. The panelists, all of whom have engaged actively in development and planning politics, will discuss what can be done to preserve Toronto’s oldest existing streets and buildings in the face of rampant condo construction and the explosive demand for inner city housing. The panel discussion is being held in conjunction with my exhibition, Early Sunday Morning (see above).

Margaret Zeidler is an architect and founder and president of Urbanspace Property Group specializing in the adaptive reuse of old buildings. Projects include 401 Richmond and the Robertson Building (home to the Centre for Social Innovation, created by Urbanspace in 2004). She is the recipient of the “Jane Jacobs Prize”, the Toronto Untitled “Best Friend of the Arts” Award, and the Order of Ontario.

Deanne Taylor is a playwright and co-founder of the award-winning theatre company, VideoCabaret.  Deanne’s interest in city planning goes back to the eighties when she created The Hummer Sisters who ran for Mayor of Toronto, and with the help of hundreds of artists and musicians came second with 10% of the vote. Since then Deanne has written and directed many election-cabarets and plays and has produced twenty plays by Michael Hollingsworth dramatizng the entire history of Canada.

Adam Vaughan is a Toronto city councillor representing Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina. For about 30 years, Vaughan worked as a political journalist for City-TV  / CP24 and for CBLT in Toronto. He has been heavily involved in the use and reform of the planning process to protect the quality of neighbourhoods within his ward. He is also a strong advocate for the arts and sits on Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee, the Toronto Arts Council, and other boards.

A Psychogeographic Stroll Around Queen & Ossington with Shawn Micallef

Explore often unnoticed spots and side-streets of the Queen and Ossington area with Shawn Micallef ,“Toronto’s most famous flaneur” (blogTO), the author of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto (2010), an editor of Spacing Magazine and a Toronto Star columnist on how we live in the GTA. The tour begins with an artist talk by me about my new photographs of Toronto on display at Twist Gallery. Then Shawn will lead a signature stroll past some of the heritage buildings featured in the exhibition, talking about the city as the group passes through it, and ending up in a neighbourhood watering-hole.

The walking tour is FREE but advanced registration is kindly requested, please email info@evelyntauben.com

EARLY SUNDAY MORNING

I am pleased to announce that I am particpating once again in Toronto’s annual Contact Photography Festival. Early Sunday Morning features new architectural photographs I have made over the past three years which illuminate the rich visual texture of the city’s disappearing heritage streetscapes. The heart of the exhibition is a series of images of buildings on Queen Street. These three-story brick structures, many dating back to the 1880s, are depicted in highly-detailed, large-scale prints which highlight their beautiful, intricate masonry and richly coloured facades as revealed by morning sunlight. The idea for the show was inspired by Edward Hopper’s 1930 painting of the same name and his aesthetic treatment of similar subject matter in early twentieth century New York. Many of these late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings in Toronto are threatened today by the unprecedented pace of redevelopment downtown. Early Sunday Morning is both a photographic “cri de coeur” for these unheralded early buildings and a celebration of a century-old era in the city’s architecture.

Early Sunday Morning Press Release

BREAKING POST-CONTACT  NEWS: Owing to the generosity of Dimitri Levanoff, master printer and proprietor of Image Foundry, sixteen of the twenty-four images in the original exhibition will be on display all summer at Image Foundry’s excellent and capacious exhibition space behind the front office. If you want to see these photographs again or if you or someone you know missed the original show, this is a great opportunity to see what Toronto Life, NOW Magazine, and  Xtra!, as well as several on-line sites, named as one of the must-see, can’t-miss exhibitions of the 2013 edition of the Contact Photography Festival.

If you would like to meet me to talk about the photographs, please contact me for an appointment through this site’s contact page.

 

THE RITE OF RETURN: Canadian-Jewish Artists and Contemporary Poland

This program will open with a guided tour of my photo exhibition, The Posthumous Landscape: Jewish Sites of Memory in Poland Today, led by me and my colleague, curator Evelyn Tauben. The evening will continue with a roundtable discussion in which Evelyn and I will be joined by theatre artist Michael Rubenfeld and filmmaker Francine Zukerman. The four of us will discuss our experiences working in Poland, the resurgence of Jewish culture there, and an increasing Canadian-Jewish connection. A reception will follow.

The program is sponsored by the Polish Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada.

Admission: $8 for PJHF members, $10 for non-members.

THE POSTHUMOUS LANDSCAPE: Jewish Historical Sites in Western Ukraine

More than seventy years after the Holocaust, western Ukraine is still replete with remnants of Jewish communal life, but the history of that community has all but vanished from popular consciousness. In June 2016, for three weeks I explored the cities of Lviv and Chernivtsi and their surroundings, drawn to the area by its abundant Jewish material culture. Lviv, part of Poland before the war, and Chernivtsi, part of Romania, had significant and large Jewish populations, as did the nearby towns. Today, western Ukraine’s much-reduced Jewish population of a few thousand faces an overwhelming task as it struggles to preserve community sites and historical artifacts, even with significant help from abroad.

Like my earlier exhibition in 2013 that explored the Polish landscape, this collection of photographs depicts the physical remnants of Jewish life in western Ukraine: synagogues, cemeteries, memorials, public spaces and architecture, some functioning, some repurposed and some in ruins. Jewish heritage sites have enjoyed legal protection in Ukraine since the mid-nineties, but because of the history of destruction during both World War Two and the Soviet era, followed by two decades of neglect, many sites are in precarious condition. However, in recent years, local civic and cultural authorities have shown a new interest in Jewish heritage and are taking significant steps to promote awareness of the value of Jewish material culture and to encourage its preservation.

Part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

 

THE POSTHUMOUS LANDSCAPE: Jewish Historical Sites in Poland and Western Ukraine

The landscapes of Poland and western Ukraine offer substantial rewards to the Jewish traveller seeking a connection with what existed before the great catastrophe of the Hitler years. Since the late 1970s and especially since the fall of Communism, Jews of the post-war generations in North America and Israel have been “returning” to Eastern Europe in ever-increasing numbers. For most the quest is to set foot in the ancestral home, to visit family burial sites if they exist, and to uncover family records in provincial archives.

My interest in what remains of Jewish life in Eastern Europe as a photographic subject was sparked by several trips to Poland to make documentary films concerning the Holocaust. On all those occasions I was unexpectedly surprised and deeply moved by both the quality and quantity of Jewish material culture—remnants of Jewish life—that I saw wherever I went. Although the great Jewish communities of Eastern Europe were destroyed by the Nazis, and the survivors persecuted and cast out in the Soviet era, evidence of centuries of Jewish life remains in abundance almost everywhere.

(This exhibition at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, brings together a selection of my photos from previous exhibitions on Jewish historical sites in Poland and western Ukraine.)

GARDENS OF MEMORY – An Installation

The FENTSTER window gallery, curated by Evelyn Tauben, is described as “a window onto Jewish life through art.” Evelyn has put together twelve exhibitions in the approximately four years since she started the project in the front window of the Makom downtown Jewish community centre. The featured artists cover a wide and eclectic range of both media and Jewish interests.

This installation in the front-facing window is comprised of a section of a photograph I made at the back of the Miodowa Street Jewish cemetery in Krakow, Poland, in 2011. The photograph encapsulates both the unusual aesthetic appeal of historic Jewish cemeteries in Poland and other East European countries and the challenges they present both in maintenance of the sites and the preservation of  Jewish monuments. The side window contains the full image from Krakow, as well as images of two other Jewish cemeteries, in Warsaw and the town of Ozarow.

I have called these cemeteries both “gardens of memory” and “gardens of history” because each one encapsulates the rich history of their respective communities, tragically destroyed in the Holocaust. The cemeteries themselves were targeted for destruction during both the Nazi and Soviet eras, and only a small percentage have survived with most of their monuments intact.

THE POSTHUMOUS LANDSCAPE: Jewish Historical Sites in Poland and Western Ukraine

The landscapes of Poland and western Ukraine offer substantial rewards to the Jewish traveller seeking a connection with what existed before the great catastrophe of the Hitler years. Since the late 1970s and especially since the fall of Communism, Jews of the post-war generations in North America and Israel have been “returning” to Eastern Europe in ever-increasing numbers. For most the quest is to set foot in the ancestral home, to visit family burial sites if they exist, and to uncover family records in provincial archives.

My interest in what remains of Jewish life in Eastern Europe as a photographic subject was sparked by several trips to Poland to make documentary films concerning the Holocaust. On all those occasions I was unexpectedly surprised and deeply moved by both the quality and quantity of Jewish material culture—remnants of Jewish life—that I saw wherever I went. Although the great Jewish communities of Eastern Europe were destroyed by the Nazis, and the survivors persecuted and cast out in the Soviet era, evidence of centuries of Jewish life remains in abundance almost everywhere.

(This exhibition at Darchei Noam Congregation in Toronto was previously at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. It brings together a selection of my photos from previous exhibitions on Jewish historical sites in Poland and western Ukraine.)

The Evolving Spaces of Kensington Market and Spadina Avenue

For about ten years, I have been making images of the ever-changing built environment along Spadina Avenue and the streets of the Kensington Market area of Toronto. When I first arrived in Toronto in 1971, the area’s historic Jewish character was still largely in evidence. In the 1930s, approximately eighty percent of the city’s 45,000 Jews lived around Spadina Avenue, and were active in the neighbourhood’s thriving businesses, synagogues and communal organizations. Forty years later, there were still many restaurants and textile and fur businesses in the district owned by Jews, as well as a number of functioning synagogues.

 As an area populated by and employing many immigrants, Spadina Avenue and Kensington Market are the locus of constant change. The appearance of the major streetscapes today has been shaped largely by the Chinese community, and colourful signs with Chinese characters dominate Spadina Avenue and nearby Dundas Street West. While most Jewish residents have relocated to the northern parts of the city and the suburbs, there are still historical remnants of Jewish life in the Market and nearby, including a few synagogues that cater to downtown Jews, joined recently by MAKOM on College Street.

Special thanks to Evelyn Tauben both for making the shidduch with MAKOM and for curating the mini-exhibition, and also to Rabbi Aaron Levy for his warm welcome.