– Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Haunting Legacies: Family and Archival Photographs in Aleksandra Garlicka’s Taxonomy of Polish Society (1985–95)”, in Gil Pasternak, ed. “Photography in Transitioning European Communist and Post-communist Histories” (Special Issue), Photography and Culture 12(2), (forthcoming 2019).
This article expands knowledge about photography’s participation in pro-democratic socio-political processes in the years leading to the demise of the communist Polish People’s Republic and during the creation of the post-communist Third Republic of Poland. Scholarship on photography in Poland’s late-communist period of the 1980s tends to focus on the work of politically critical art photographers. It looks especially at practitioners who denounced state museums and galleries in protest at the government’s repression of human rights and political diversity. Scholarship on photography in Poland’s post-communist era of the early 1990s usually persists in prioritizing the study of artistic photographs, exploring how the new reality in the country diversified their subject matter, style, and political orientation. In this article we shift attention towards photographic exhibitions that were installed in Poland’s formal cultural institutions in the late 1980s, and we consider uses of non-artistic photographs in the country’s public sphere of the late-communist and early post-communist periods alike. To do so, we introduce the work of historian and curator Aleksandra Garlicka, analyzing five exhibitions she organized between 1985 and 1995. In all of these, Garlicka employed archival photographs to access histories of Polish society that the communist state had striven to repress. Yet she also called on members of the public to share with her their family photographs in order to deepen the scope of her endeavor. Drawing on archival sources, interviews, and Polish literature from the period in question, we demonstrate how Garlicka deployed these photographs to promote political change in one of Poland’s most turbulent historical moments of the twentieth century. Also considering the reception and impact of her curated shows, we argue that, in Garlicka’s hands, the display of photographs in Poland’s dominant exhibition spaces challenged communist ideology and helped the Poles to come to terms with its legacies.
– Pasternak, Gil, “Introduction: Photography in Transitioning European Communist and Post-communist Histories”, in Gil Pasternak, ed. “Photography in Transitioning European Communist and Post-communist Histories” (Special Issue), Photography and Culture 12(2), (forthcoming 2019).
This is an introduction to a special issue of the peer-reviewed academic journal Photography and Culture on photographic cultures in late- and post-communist Eastern Europe, edited by Gil Pasternak
– Pasternak, Gil, ed., “Photography in Transitioning European Communist and Post-communist Histories” (Special Issue), Photography and Culture 12(2), (forthcoming 2019).
In this interdisciplinary special issue a group of international scholars, academics and practitioners investigate photographic cultures that began developing mainly in the late twentieth century within the region often known in the Anglosphere either as the former Eastern Bloc or as Eastern Europe. It is dedicated specifically to explorations of the histories and legacies of the impact that political processes have exerted on social and cultural uses and conceptualizations of photography during a period that, broadly speaking, began in the mid 1970s and ended during the first decade of the twenty-first century. The first decade and a half in this period – from the mid-1970s to 1989 – signifies the gradual weakening of Soviet-regulated dictatorial communist regimes across the countries of the Eastern Bloc, chiefly, although not exclusively, following the emergence of internal and public as well as popular and active sociopolitical calls for their democratization. The remaining years of the period were mainly characterized by the progressive dissolution of the political boundaries between East and West, and by increasing national and patriotic sentiments among citizens of the former communist Eastern European states. The special issue traces the roles photography played in advancing some of these processes through examination of two interrelated matters. On the one hand, it expands knowledge about photographic practices and conventions that developed specifically due to the gradual deterioration of the Eastern Bloc in the late 1970s and during its fragmentation throughout the 1980s. On the other, it provides scholarly understandings of the ways photography was used to assist in re-forming social, cultural, political, and national values in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc during the post-communist era of the 1990s and very early 2000s.
– Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Exhibiting Ethnic Minorities, Democratizing History: Cold War Legacies and the Jews in Poland’s Visible Sphere”, in Cold War Camera, eds. Erina Duganne, Andrea Noble and Thy Phu, Duke University Press (forthcoming 2019/20).
– Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Making a Home in Poland: Photographic Education and Practices in the Landkentnish Movement,” IMAGES: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture (forthcoming 2019).
This article studies the photographic methods that the Poland based Landkentnish (Yiddish for “knowing the land”) movement employed in the interwar period to promote Jewish culture and Poland as a home for the Jewish people. The movement wished to increase the exposure of Polish Jews to Poland’s diverse landscapes in order to strengthen their connection to the Polish land. It also aspired to create archives of local Jewish cultural heritage to attest to the long history of Polish Jewry and to the contributions that Jews had made to Polish society. After tracing the movement’s origins, this article explores the concentrated efforts that it made to provide its members with photographic knowledge and education. Analyzing the photographic sources and resources that the movement created, the exhibitions that it put on display, and its employment of snapshots, the article demonstrates how photography assisted the movement in realizing its key aims and objectives. A similar version of this article appeared in Polish: Gil Pasternak and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Mieć w Polsce ojczyznę. Fotografia w działalności żydowskiego ruchu krajoznawczego (1923–1939),” in Odkrywanie “peryferii”: Historie fotografii w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej, ed. Marta Ziętkiewicz and Małgorzata Biernacka (Warsaw: Liber pro Arte, 2017), 103–134.
– Pasternak, Gil, “Politics and Photography: Being Together, With Photographs”, in Handbook of Photography Studies, ed. Gil Pasternak, London & New York, Bloomsbury Publishing (forthcoming 2019).
Politics and photography have worked together and challenged each other since the very appearance of the medium in the nineteenth century. Studying how the relationship between the two emerged and what factors might have contributed to strengthening it over time, the chapter is divided into three core sections. It begins with a discussion of photography in professional politics, analyzing how statesmen have employed the medium for political gain. Turning attention to the governed layers of society, the second section explores how photography has served them in concrete efforts to contest rulers, state power and stagnant doctrines. Lastly, the third section explores some roles photography has been tasked to perform in the context of sociocultural and identity politics. Prioritizing examples from a variety of continents, historical moments, digital and material environments, the chapter clarifies how politics has affected photographic uses, practices and meanings and the ways photography sways people’s lives.
The Handbook of Photography Studies is a state-of-the-art overview of the field of photography studies, examining its thematic interests, dynamic research methodologies and multiple scholarly directions. It is a source of well-informed, analytical and reflective discussions of all the main subjects that photography scholars have been concerned with as well as a rigorous study of the field’s persistent expansion at a time when digital technology regularly boosts our exposure to new and historical photographs alike. Split into five core parts, the Handbook analyses the field’s histories, theories and research strategies; discusses photography in academic disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts; draws out the main concerns of photographic scholarship; interrogates photography’s cultural and geopolitical influences; and examines photography’s multiple uses and continued changing faces. Each part begins with an introductory text, giving historical contextualization and scholarly orientation. Featuring the work of international experts, and offering diverse examples, insights and discussions of the field’s rich historiography, the Handbook provides critical guidance to the most recent research in photography studies.This pioneering and comprehensive volume presents a systematic synopsis of the subject that will be an invaluable resource for photography researchers and students from all disciplinary backgrounds in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
– Pasternak, Gil, “At Home with ‘Palestine’: Performing Historical Photographs of the West Bank in Israeli Households”, in Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict, ed. Gil Pasternak, London & New York: Bloomsbury Publishing (forthcoming 2019).
This chapter offers insights into the multiple roles played by photography in the sociocultural embodiment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Looking into the emergence of photographic cultures in Israel of the post-1967 war period, it focuses on the participation of photographs that Jewish-Israelis captured within the West Bank in performances and celebrations of Israel’s 1967 war victory. Jewish-Israelis started flooding into this territory only a week after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war ended. Commonly carrying cameras, they subsequently took photographs in spaces that had just returned to accommodating more prosaic activities than armed conflict. Drawing on archival research and ethnographic work with local participants, the chapter demonstrates that the photographs that Jewish-Israeli citizens captured in the West Bank of that period informed their understanding of Israel’s claimed right to this territory alongside their perception of its Palestinian residents. Portraying the lives that the photographs have lived in the Jewish-Israeli household since that time, it argues that they helped Jewish-Israeli citizens cement their perceived historical relationship to the West Bank at the same time as they reassured the itinerants, their friends and families that their morality was intact, the situation in the country safe and their relationship with the Palestinians affable.
– Pasternak, Gil, “Introduction: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict”, in Gil Pasternak, ed. Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict, London & New York: Bloomsbury Publishing (forthcoming 2019).
– Pasternak, Gil, ed. Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict. London & New York: Bloomsbury Publishing (forthcoming 2019).
In this interdisciplinary book, a group of international authors strives to cultivate a better future for the people of Israel-Palestine through recognition of the part that cultural products have played in the duplication of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While this conflict is one of the longest-lasting struggles over land and human rights in recent history, politicians and the media have largely reduced it to a series of debates over historical facts and expressions of violence. Its persistence, however, has also led to the manufacture of cultural products that challenge understandings of the conflict as a fight between two distinct peoples unified against each other. Contributors to Visioning Israel-Palestine analyse the content of such products alongside the work that they do within Israel-Palestine and in the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas. They largely draw on the legacy of nonconformist intellectual Edward Said, who saw culture as a participant in the perpetuation of the conflict, as well as a vehicle capable of leading the way towards its just resolution. The chapters in the volume consider Israeli and Palestinian films, art installations, street exhibitions, photographs and oral histories to expand the conflict’s historical imagination and nurture suitable cultural conditions to revitalise the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
– Pasternak, Gil, “Popular Photographic Cultures in Photography Studies”, in Photography Reframed: New Visions in Contemporary Photographic Culture, eds. Benedict Burbridge and Annebella Pollen, London & New York: I.B. Tauris, 2018.
Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Mieć w Polsce ojczyznę. Fotogra a w działalności żydowskiego ruchu krajoznawczego (1923-1939)”, in Odkrywanie «Peryferii». Historie fotogra i w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej, eds. Marta Ziętkiewicz and Małgorzata Biernacka, Warszawa: Liber pro Arte, 2017: 103-134 (Polish: “Making a Home in Poland: The Jewish Sightseeing Movement and Its Photographic Practices”, in Discovering “Peripheries”: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe, eds. Marta Ziętkiewicz and Małgorzata Biernacka, Warsaw: Society Liber pro Arte, 2017: 103-134).
Pasternak, Gil, “„Diabeł z Zachodu” i „szatan ze Wschodu”. Re eksja badawcza nad fotogra ą wobec przemian we współczesnej nauce”, in Odkrywanie «Peryferii». Historie fotogra i w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej, eds. Marta Ziętkiewicz and Małgorzata Biernacka, Warszawa: Liber pro Arte, 2017: 23-42 (Polish: “‘The Devil of the West’ and ‘the Satan of the East’: Studying Photography in Shifting Academic Landscapes”, in Discovering “Peripheries”: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe, eds. Marta Ziętkiewicz and Małgorzata Biernacka, Warsaw: Society Liber pro Arte, 2017: 23-42).
Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Subwersywna moc prywatnych kolekcji fotografii. Żydzi w polskiej pamięci zbiorowej po upadku komunizmu”, Konteksty: Antropologia Kultury-Etnografia-Sztuka LXXI(3), 2017: 212-224 (Polish: “Beyond the Familial Impulse: Domestic Photography and Sociocultural History in Post-communist Poland”, Konteksty: Antropologia Kultury-Etnografia-Sztuka LXXI(3), 2017: 212-224).
Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz, “Beyond the Familial Impulse: Domestic Photography and Sociocultural History in Post-communist Poland, 1989-1996,” Photography & Culture 10(2), Special Issue: Seeing Family, 2017: 121-145.
In 1994 the Jewish-Polish Shalom Foundation announced a photographic contest whose intention was to reconstruct the social and cultural histories of Polish Jews who lived in the geographical region of Poland before, during and after the Second World War. For this purpose the Foundation invited contributions from the public. Its initiative emerged shortly after the 1989 collapse of the communist regime in Poland, and alongside other similar projects that reflected the desire of Poland’s ethnic minorities to salvage their sociocultural histories – histories the communist government had virtually erased from the country’s formal historiography. In a short period of time the Foundation received more than seven thousand annotated photographs in response to its public appeal, most of which emanated from domestic photographic collections. As scholars interrogating domestic photography do not often have access to empirical data about the practices it entails, in this article we consider the Foundation photographic collection as a resource preserving invaluable information about the diverse uses and perceptions of photography in the sociocultural sphere. Yet, whereas existing scholarly literature in the field of photography studies tends to frame domestic photography with reference to affectionate familial behaviors allegedly common in democratic states, we introduce the Foundation collection as a case study that sheds light on domestic photographs created and maintained in a sociocultural environment that did not see democracy before 1989. Analyzing and discussing the various ways in which the photographs’ owners saw the photographs’ relationships with the broader politically unstable reality that has enclosed their production and preservation, our study diversifies some of the meanings and functions current literature often associates with domestic photographic collections.
Pasternak, Gil, “Taking Snapshots, Living the Picture: The Kodak Company’s Making of Photographic Biography,” Life Writing 12(4), Special Issue: Self-regarding: Looking at Photos in Life Writing, 2015: 431- 446
In this article I explore how George Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company encouraged early twentieth-century camera users to think of snapshots as pictorial biographies. Analysing a wide selection of articles from the Kodakery, one of Kodak’s most popular magazines in the first half of the twentieth century, I demonstrate that the company endeavoured to secure its prominence in the photographic market by encouraging members of the public to integrate picture-taking into everyday life, and regard photographs as self-contained repositories of biographical details. To this end, Kodak framed the speedy pace of life that characterised the practice of being in the industrial world as a reality that allegedly weakened the human eye and mind’s ability to process the experience of life itself. Introducing the idea of the camera and picture-taking as the ultimate cures for this purported human deficiency, Kodak provided camera users with advice that helped to cement an understanding of photographs as surrogates of both the changing human body and individual subjects’ experiences in time and space. As in popular culture, and sometimes also in academia, photographs are still widely regarded as pictorial biographies, I argue that considering the popular photographic industry’s role in shaping photographic practices and photographs’ perceived meanings can help clarify the relationship between photography and life-writing.
Pasternak, Gil, “Intimate Conflicts: Foregrounding the Radical Politics of Family Photographs”, in Photography, History, Difference, ed. Tanya Sheehan, University Press of New England, 2014: 217-239
In this essay I discuss the common scholarly argument that because the nuclear family is conditioned by the social order, family photographs manifest and propagate social values as well as behavioral standards that secure a sense of sociocultural cohesion. Indeed family photographs construct and impart knowledge about the family and its sociocultural surroundings. However, they are collected by families, kept for families, and shared within familial circles of relations and close friends. They are made for a specific group of individuals, often in moments of no particular significance other than for the intimate circle of the family unit. I therefore show that family photographs are the products of sitters’ desires to draw attention to their own selves and the alternative realities created by and for themselves, rather than to the social domain at large. In this respect, I argue that family photographs have more in common with photographic histories of sociopolitical conflict and destabilization than with those of political integration and social cohesion.
Pasternak, Gil, Book review for Ali Behdad and Luke Gartlan Photography’s Orientalism: New Essays on Colonial Representation (Los Angeles, CA: Getty Institute, 2013), in Visual Studies 29(2), 2014: 226-227.
Pasternak, Gil, “Photographic Histories, Actualities, Potentialities: Amateur Photography as Photographic Historiography”, in Reconsidering Amateur Photography, edited by Annebella Pollen and Juliet Baillie. As part of Either/And, Online commissioned essay series for the National Media Museum, 2014.
This essay enters into a brief dialogue with the work of some scholars who mapped out the historiography of photography with a view to assessing whether its history could be explained comprehensibly and exist within a demarcated scholarly territory of its own. I reopen this question to consider how current investigations that consider the histories of amateur photographic practices may reframe the broader study of photographic history. Bypassing the theoretically driven, exclusive museological and social histories of photography, the study of amateur photographic practices, I argue, redefines the scope of photographic history in relation to empirical information about the employment, deployment and understanding of photography by those who have the power to control neither its technological development nor its institutional uses.
This is a Slovenian translation of an article that I first published in English in 2009: Pasternak, Gil, “Covering Horror: Family Photographs in Israeli Reportage on Terrorism,” Object, 11: 87-104, London: Routledge, 2009. It focuses on the presentation of family photographs in reports on terror attacks in the leading Israeli dailies since the first intifada of 1987. How should the Israeli media cover terror attacks carried out against the Israeli population and within the environment of its daily life? What kind of images should it circulate? How explicit should these be? Such questions have concerned a variety of professional members of the Israeli society since the mid 1990s. Having realised that a too explicit coverage of attacks might damage the morale of the Israelis, Israeli dailies virtually agreed in 1997 to refrain from publishing explicit photographs of corpses, expressions of panic, hysteria, grief and anxiety. Instead, the Israeli media turned to what eventually became the only valid, indisputable means to represent the dead victims: their family photographs. These pictures, however, refer to a different space, time, and occasion; they draw attention to more pleasurable moments and biographical highlights, whereas the nature of the reported event and the report itself inevitably focuses on violence and death. The aim of this article is to trace the sociological implications involved in the participation of such images in the narrative of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian political conflict.
This text explores the political use of family portraits in Assaf Shoshan’s Territoires de l’attente (Waiting Territories). Made along the geographical terrain of the Israeli state, Territoires de l’attente is a photographic series that features human-made landscapes associated with precarious living conditions created by the past or present interventions of armed forces. The series depicts sites that relate to the grand ideological and historical narrative shaped by the Israeli state about its establishment, its wars and treatment of the Arab residents who remained after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. In isolating these landscapes from the rest of the geographical terrain currently occupied by the Israeli state, Shoshan portrays them as sites whose physical conditions raise questions about Israel’s policies and attitude towards its non-Jewish inhabitants. I argue that Territoires de l’attente’s underpinning concern for the circumstances and wellbeing of non-Jewish inhabitants is enhanced by three family portraits inserted into the series. They show Sudanese asylum seekers who recently fled their country and travelled to Israel as they believed the state of Israel might possibly offer them convenient means to start their lives anew. Depicted in compliance with the convention and visual vocabulary of family photography, I suggest that the asylum seekers’ performance, visualisation and frequent transgression of the ideological trope of nuclear family kinship remind the viewers of the politics of ethnic exclusion that sustain the absolute rule of any nation-state. I therefore argue that these images do not only record another chapter in the history of nomadic and displaced populations in the region. Rather, they also echo the political forces that prepare individual subjects to endure the troubled existence imposed upon them in the name of any state.
This article is concerned with the production of domestic familial knowledge in connection to the modern Israeli State’s geographical terrain. Considering the period stretching from the establishment of the Israeli State in 1948 to the present day, it focuses on a case study of a family album of pictures portraying Israeli subjects in a landscape that is concurrently perceived as the home of the Palestinian as well as the Jewish-Israeli peoples. By attending to Palestinian and Israeli historical accounts that investigate the Israeli State’s ideological administration of landscape, alongside the theorisation of vernacular photography and the methodologies often used to unpack such imagery, I demonstrate how landscape-family-photographs may confront the Zionist “Geographical Imagination” and the physical landscape the Zionist project designed and imposed upon the “Israeli” land. Such photographs, I argue, extend and alter existing Zionist representational regimes, challenging formal Israeli historiography. While this article centres on the production of landscape-family-photographs within the Israeli State, it intends to offer an insight into the impact both the commercialisation and technological simplification of the photographic medium had on the use of photography in cultural politics. I suggest that photography in this context does much more than simply serve the distribution of power by state officials. In the vernacular, I argue, photography must be read as a potentially subversive apparatus capable of undermining formal doctrines and canonical histories.
Fox, Paul and Pasternak, Gil, “Introduction: Images of Conflict,” in Visual Conflicts: On the Formation of Political Memory in Art History and Visual Cultures, eds. Paul Fox and Gil Pasternak, New Castle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011, pp. 1–15.
Pasternak, Gil, “Playing Soldiers: Posing Militarism in the Domestic Sphere,” in Visual Conflicts: On the Formation of Political Memory in Art History and Visual Cultures, eds. Paul Fox and Gil Pasternak, New Castle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011, pp. 139–168.
This book chapter explores the political life of family photographs and the social rituals attending the practice of family photography in an attempt to broaden and politicise scholarly literature on this subject. Focusing on Israeli society, my contribution delves into the micro-politics of family photography practiced specifically by Jewish-Israelis in the context of the Arab-Zionist conflict that developed after the formal establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. I intend to present an unconventional approach to family photography by addressing images selected from collections belong to my own family. In general, my research argues for the need to study the photographic apparatus beyond the traditional parameters of dominant social taxonomies and their prescribed significance. In doing so, it questions the common understanding of the family photograph as apolitical. This specific body of research examines portraits of members of my family imaged while serving in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Whereas there is nothing unusual in producing and accumulating family photographs of soldiers, it is a practice that reveals the lack of clear boundaries between the state, society, and the nuclear family. In a country such as Israel, where militarism and violent political conflict are part and parcel of the everyday, posing militarism in the domestic sphere appears as necessary. Here I introduce sociological and anthropological perspectives on Israeli attitudes to the army and military service in order to enable readers to fully apprehend the values and visions the IDF symbolises in the eyes of the vast majority of Jewish-Israelis. Since the IDF is the one organisation endorsed by both Jewish-Israeli society and the state, I argue that portraits showing members of the family in military uniform operate as declarations of social assimilation and approval. However, while I demonstrate how such family photographs assist in perpetuating and solidifying Israeli social norms, including positive attitudes towards the Israeli army, I also show how the protocols of the genre of portraiture–not least posing for the camera–can subvert the coherence of their putative message, thereby interfering with cultural constructions of martial identities tacitly endorsed by the state.
Based on a survey of Israeli military and civil cemeteries that I conducted between July and September 2007, this article focuses on the increasingly common custom of mounting family photographs on tombstones of Israeli fallen soldiers—a phenomenon unique in Israel to military cemeteries in particular, although it is forbidden both by Jewish law as well as by the Israeli Law of Military Cemeteries legislated in 1950. I demonstrate how, from its first reported appearance in 1971, the application of this practice has been growing gradually to function as a form of political disapproval that enables a way of salvaging memories of the dead that go beyond the historical role and social identity with which they are imbued by the standard memorials erected over their graves by the Israeli Ministry of Defense. My main argument is that this practice subverts the most fundamental patterns of commemoration prevailing in contemporary occidental military cemeteries in formal-spatial, symbolic, and ideological terms. Analyzing particularly the formal and social positions Israeli soldiers occupy in professional and amateur family photographs mounted on military tombstones, this article offers a series of historical, theoretical, and social interpretations of this growing phenomenon, and opens up the question of the relationship between politics, death, commemoration, and the family photograph.
This article focuses on the presentation of family photographs in reports on terror attacks in the leading Israeli dailies since the first intifada of 1987. How should the Israeli media cover terror attacks carried out against the Israeli population and within the environment of its daily life? What kind of images should it circulate? How explicit should these be? Such questions have concerned a variety of professional members of the Israeli society since the mid 1990s. Having realised that a too explicit coverage of attacks might damage the morale of the Israelis, Israeli dailies virtually agreed in 1997 to refrain from publishing explicit photographs of corpses, expressions of panic, hysteria, grief and anxiety. Instead, the Israeli media turned to what eventually became the only valid, indisputable means to represent the dead victims: their family photographs. These pictures, however, refer to a different space, time, and occasion; they draw attention to more pleasurable moments and biographical highlights, whereas the nature of the reported event and the report itself inevitably focuses on violence and death. The aim of this article is to trace the sociological implications involved in the participation of such images in the narrative of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian political conflict.