Published Research

  • Pasternak, Gil. forthcoming 2017 (in press). ‘The Devil of the West’ and ‘the Satan of the East’: Studying Photography in Shifting Academic Landscapes’. In Ziętkiewicz, Marta, ed. Discovering ‘Peripheries’: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw: Society Liber Pro Arte.
  • Pasternak, Gil. forthcoming 2017 (in press). Popular Photographic Cultures in Photography Studies. In Burbridge, Benedict and Pollen, Annebella, eds. Photography Reframed. London & New York: I. B. Tauris.
  • Pasternak, Gil, ed. forthcoming 2017/18. The Handbook of Photography Studies. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Pasternak, Gil. forthcoming 2017. At Home with Palestine: Performing Historical Photographs of the West Bank in Israeli Households. In Libman, Lior and Pasternak, Gil, eds. Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict. London & New York: I. B. Tauris.
  • Libman, Lior and Gil Pasternak, eds. forthcoming 2017. Visioning Israel-Palestine: Encounters at the Cultural Boundaries of Conflict. London & New York: I. B. Tauris.
  • Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz. forthcoming 2017 (in press). Making a Home in Poland: The Jewish Sightseeing Movement and Its Photographic Practices. In Ziętkiewicz, Marta, ed. Discovering ‘Peripheries’: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw: Society Liber Pro Arte.
  • Pasternak, Gil and Marta Ziętkiewicz. forthcoming 2017. Subwersywna moc prywatnych kolekcji fotografii. Żydzi w polskiej pamięci zbiorowej po upadku komunizmu. Konteksty: Antropologia Kultury-Etnografia-Sztuka (Polish).

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: Re-Framing Family Photography, 2017: 1-25.

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.

caareviewesPasternak, Gil, Book review for Wendy Kozol‘s Distant Wars Visible: The Ambivalence of Witnessing (2014).

Life WritingPasternak, 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.

Photography, History, DifferencePasternak, 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.

Visual StudiesPasternak, 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.

 

 

 

 

National Media Museum

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.

FotografijaPasternak, Gil, “Poročanje o grozotah: Družinske fotografije v izraelskih reportažah o terorizmu”, Fotografija 55, 56: 52–58, 2013 (Slovenian).

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.

Récits d’un territoire

Pasternak, Gil, « Récits d’un territoire » / “Ground Narratives,” in Shoshan, Assaf, Territoires de l’attente, Paris: Diaphane éditions, 2013, pp. 67–71 (French), pp. 71–76 (English).

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.

caareviewesPasternak, Gil, Book review for Ariella Azoulay’s Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology (2013).

Photography and Culture 2013Pasternak, Gil, “’The Brownies in Palestina’: Politicizing geographies in family photographs,” Photography and Culture, 6(1): 41–64, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

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.

Pasternak, Gil, “Posthumous Interruptions: The Political Life of Family Photographs in Israeli Cemeteries,” Photography and Culture, 3(1): 41-63(23), Oxford: Berg, 2010.

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.

Pasternak, Gil, “Covering Horror: Family Photographs in Israeli Reportage on Terrorism,” Object, 11: 87-104, London: Routledge, 2009.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s