Brian Hendler, award-winning photographer, dies


Award-winning photographer Brian Hendler, who served for many years as JTA’s staff photographer in Israel, has died.

Hendler, a South African immigrant to Jerusalem, died suddenly on Wednesday at 63, according to The Jerusalem Post, one of the many news outlets for which Hendler worked. The report did not offer any information on cause of death.

Among the news outlets Hendler worked for were The Associated Press, Reuters and National Geographic. He also shot photos for Jewish and Zionist organizations.

During his tenure at JTA in the 2000s, Hendler won at least four first-place awards from the American Jewish Press Association. Among his award-winning shots were photos from Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, “Sea of Soldiers” and “Leaving Gaza,” as well as conflict photos from 2004, “Grieving Soldiers in Gaza” and “Fighting the Fence.”

“Brian was as dedicated as they come,” said Lisa Hostein, JTA’s editor at the time and now the executive editor of Hadassah Magazine. “He always wanted to be at the right place for the right photo. Sometimes that happened with serendipity and sometimes it took days or weeks of planning. Throughout his tenure with JTA, he covered some of the most significant developments in Israeli life. It was often those images that the Jewish world saw first.”

Dina Kraft, JTA’s Israel correspondent in the 2000s and now a journalism professor at Northeastern University, recalled Hendler’s delicate consideration of his interview subjects in joint assignments the two worked on for JTA.

“We spent a lot of time in the summer of 2005 in Gaza interviewing Jewish settlers ahead of their evacuation. I remember how considerate he was with his subjects there and on every assignment,” Kraft said. “Brian was a gifted photographer – able to capture human and relatable moments within complex stories, whether it was an Israeli mother holding her baby close during an air raid siren in the South or the lone footprints of Sudanese refugees crossing sand dunes into Israel.”

Hendler, who was not married and had no children, is survived by his mother and a brother in South Africa, the Post reported.

“Brian made aliyah at a young age all on his own, and stuck it out,” a relative in Jerusalem, Yael Newman, told The Jerusalem Post. “He was committed to Israel and Jewish values, and was passionate about his photography.”

The Mensch List: With a little help from his camera lens


When Joel Lipton, who has been a professional photographer for almost 30 years, first started shooting events for Big Sunday, at the time a one-day, annual volunteer event, he initially had some second thoughts about just how much the clicks of his camera were helping. 

“You know, people are planting, and they’re doing heavy labor,” Lipton said of the other volunteers who were creating gardens and painting murals to permanently spruce up public-school campuses, often in low-income neighborhoods, among other jobs.

“I’m just taking pictures.”

But Lipton, who in his work life has photographed actors and poker players, hulking cheeseburgers and sculpted athletes, found that at the Big Sunday events he was taking pictures of ordinary people, often mothers and their children, bringing to each shot the same artist’s eye of all of his work, but done here for free, a gesture of generosity. So over the past five or six years, he’s created hundreds of these posed portraits, producing beautiful prints, which he gives out to his subjects on the spot. 

David Levinson, founder and executive director of Big Sunday, loves Lipton’s work, as much for the photographer’s working method as for how the final products turn out. He recalled how Lipton, on Halloween 2011, shot pictures of kids in their new costumes at a Big Sunday-organized party for underserved children. 

“He brought a seamless background, professional lighting, and took everyone’s pictures with patience and humor and attention to detail and respect,” Levinson wrote in an e-mail, “as if he were taking a photo of a senator.”

Pictures and videos produced by Lipton have found their way into Big Sunday promotional materials, even onto the walls of the organization’s offices. 

And though professionally he more often works in the premeditated style of photography used in advertising and editorial images, Lipton said when he volunteers as a photojournalist for Big Sunday, an annual Christmas dinner for Temple Israel of Hollywood and a few other lucky organizations, he feels like he’s validating the work others are doing by showing it to the world.

“A lot of things that people do are little things,” Lipton said. “I think that a lot of times, what people do, they don’t think it matters. But it does, because every little bit builds on something else.” 

Spencer Tunick returning to Dead Sea for photo shoot—with clothed models


Photographer Spencer Tunick, who is known for his shots of nudes modeling in masses, is returning to Israel's Dead Sea for another shoot — with clothed models.

Tunick will photograph a floating event on Friday that is aimed at raising awareness of the Dead Sea's shrinking shores.

The event is sponsored by Save Our Sea, a group of activists suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis who rely on the Dead Sea waters and mud for treatment and relief, according to Bloomberg News.

More than 1,000 Israelis modeled nude for a photo installation by Tunick at the Dead Sea in a session a year ago. The volunteers modeled in the sea, on the shore and covered in Dead Sea mud.

“I am happy to return to the Dead Sea one year after the series of photographs I took in this unique location,” he said in a statement. “The Dead Sea deserves rehabilitation and protection both on the local and the international levels. I call on everyone, local and international activists, to join us to create a critical mass of citizens of the world who are concerned over the deterioration of this natural wonder.”

Tunick also is in Israel to receive the Green Globe Award given by Life and Environment, Israel's umbrella organization for its environmental groups.

Israel apologizes to NYT photographer


Israel’s Defense Ministry apologized to an American New York Times photographer who was forced to go through an X-ray machine during a security check despite being pregnant.

Lynsey Addario reportedly was made to go through the X-ray machine three times despite being asked to be patted down, and was then required to go through a strip search, when entering Israel from Gaza, the Associated Press reported. The incident occurred last month.

Addario, who is based in India, said that she was mocked by soldiers while in the X-ray machine.

In the apology, the Defense Ministry said that proper procedure had been followed, but that the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer’s request to avoid the X-ray machine had not been properly relayed.

Albert Winn’s photography captures the intertwining influences of Judaism and illness


When the cold-and-flu season rolls around, Albert Winn’s longtime boyfriend usually gets sidelined by a bug for a week or two, but Winn says he seldom gets a sniffle.

“Virus?” Winn said with a chuckle as he mused on his robustness. “You don’t know from virus.”

Sixty-year-old Winn has been living with HIV since at least the late 1980s.

“I was diagnosed in 1989, but a previous boyfriend had died, and I knew plenty of guys who had become sick,” he said.

In 1989, many gay men were burying lovers and tending to sick friends.

That grim landscape inspired many gay artists and activists to turn morosely inward or angrily outward — to create art heavy with loss or to shake a fist at the larger social and political order that stood by idly as thousands died.

But as a gay Jew with AIDS who was about to launch his career as a photographer, Winn saw that fateful turn in his life not as a predicament but as an opportunity to document and explore the interplay between the distinct yet overlapping elements that defined him as a person.

Which is not to say that Winn’s 20-year AIDS odyssey has been anything less than arduous.

Like many people who received a diagnosis in the early years of the epidemic, Winn suspects he had been living with HIV for some time before telltale illnesses prompted him to get tested.

“It hit me pretty strongly,” he said. “I was perfectly OK in the doctor’s office, then I got into my car and started crying.”

At the time, Winn was living in West Hollywood with Scott Portnoff, his flu-prone boyfriend, and working toward his master of fine arts in photography at California Institute of the Arts.

“I told Scott, ‘I’m not going to let this get me down,'” Winn recalled.

Winn’s resolve was soon tested. He began to develop wasting syndrome — a condition in which the body can’t produce enough energy to replace the muscle and fat it loses as it fights disease — and his doctors told him there was nothing they could do to stop his decline.

Coming out to his family as gay had been a long, difficult process for Winn. The sudden onset of AIDS served to clarify the preciousness of time for him, and he decided he was going to explain his new situation to everyone who was dear to him as soon as possible.

He got on a plane and flew to Florida so that he could tell his parents about his illness face-to-face.

“At the time, AIDS was a death sentence, and they needed to see that I was alive,” Winn said. “A funny thing happens when you become ill. Even though you’re the person who’s sick, you have to be a caregiver in a way. You can’t just dump information on people.”

Such insight — that people who are gravely ill are not “the dying” but are still to be counted among “the living” — was pivotal for Winn. It informed not only his approach to his illness but also his angle on the work he was producing as a photographer.

“I had already been doing a lot of self-portraits,” he said. “Then it clicked — this is now my topic. Not just self-portraits, but autobiography.”

His thesis project at CalArts began to take shape as “My Life Until Now,” a collage of images and text anchored by autobiographical photography that reveals Winn and his life in thick detail.

If his HIV diagnosis spurred the development of his artist’s eye, Winn’s sparring with Nicholas Nixon, a mentor to Winn who had been one of the first photographers to document the AIDS crisis, helped to clarify his vision.

Nixon’s photographs depicted the ravages of AIDS in clinical and often gruesome imagery. When Nixon’s work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the show was picketed by gay activists who saw the pictures as dehumanizing.

“I had a similar reaction to the project,” Winn said. “I was concerned about how gay people and people with AIDS were represented. You’ve got to remember that you’re looking at a person.”

Portraying his personhood meant, for Winn, including signifiers of his Jewish and gay identities as well as emblems of his struggle with AIDS. Thus, images in “My Life Until Now” often feature moments in his relationship with Scott and the everyday, intertwining influences of Judaism and illness.

One of the most affecting pictures in the project is “Akedah,” in which the viewer sees Winn’s bare torso, his arm wrapped with tefillin, and an adhesive bandage in the crook of his left elbow.

“I began to practice putting on tefillin,” said Winn, who was raised in a Conservative family but had never considered himself religious. “There was something primal about binding prayers to your arm, next to your heart — to get them as close to your skin as you can.”

The act of binding prayers to his body also helped Winn contain the difficult feelings triggered by the daily ritual of having his blood drawn while he was in a clinical study of experimental AIDS therapies at UCLA.

“Over time, instead of getting used to it, it got worse,” Winn said. “So I wondered, ‘How do I make sense out of something that’s driving me insane?'”

The physical similarity between the act of putting on teffilin and “a Jewish guy having a rubber thing wrapped around his arm” was obvious to Winn. But the deeper resonance was between the life-and-death urgency of his situation and the ancient story of the binding of Isaac.

“I realized I was making a sacrifice for science, but it was also saving my life,” Winn said.

The picture, which Winn took shortly after having his blood drawn during the UCLA study, became one of the most iconic images in “My Life Until Now.” It has since become part of the permanent collections in the Library of Congress and the Jewish Museum in New York.

Photo exhibit highlights the human cost of our bounty


In the stark black-and-white photo, two small children play in and around water, as children anywhere might do on a hot day. But there’s something odd about the image: it isn’t the shore or a recreational pool they’re playing in, but a concrete irrigation canal.

“The children’s father works in the orchards,” said Rick Nahmias, creator, writer and photographer of “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers,” a recently opened exhibition at the Museum of Tolerance and of the book of the same name.

“Their mother works in the packing houses. Midday they pack a lunch and the kids bring their pet chicken, and they play in the canal…. Against all odds, these people are holding their family together. There’s something beautiful about that,” Nahmias said.”At the same time, there’s something horrifying because it’s not Santa Monica Beach or the YMCA. It’s an agricultural canal, and the water is tainted with pesticides.”

Nahmias, who is Jewish and in his early 40s, lives in the San Fernando Valley. A photographer/writer/filmmaker who has worked for corporate and organizational clients, his recent efforts have focused on what he feels “really matters”: documenting the lives and struggles of marginalized people and communities. His other photo-documentary projects include “Golden States of Grace,” a collection of images and oral histories depicting off-the-beaten-path religious groups in moments of sacrament and prayer. Another undertaking, “Last Days of the Four Seasons,” now in post-production, chronicles the lives of Holocaust survivors residing in a Catskill bungalow colony that is in the process of being shut down for good.

Nahmias said that the idea for “The Migrant Project” took root in 2002, when he was working for Arianna Huffington as a writer and researcher.

“On a break from my political writing, I spent a week at a culinary institute in Napa,” Nahmias said. “While there, I realized that no one talks about how this amazing bounty of food gets to our kitchens and tables. And I thought: ‘Let me take a stab at this.’ I felt passionate enough about this issue to leave a paying job in order to try to do something that was both creative and political.

“Another thing was that I had spent time [researching] the life of Edward R. Murrow, especially ‘Harvests of Shame,’ his groundbreaking 1960 documentary on migrant farm workers. I had not seen anything done currently that addressed that.”

In order to gather material for “The Migrant Project,” Nahmias crisscrossed California’s agricultural areas, from Calexico to Sacramento, listening to stories and taking photos. His aim was to put a human face on what he calls an “invisible and consistently neglected population.” Each of the exhibition’s 40 black-and-white photos — which are accompanied by Nahmias’ written commentary — offers a glimpse into the “collective saga about the very human cost of putting food on America’s table.”

For example, there’s Maria. She looks, unsmilingly, straight at the camera, her face framed by leaves. On the day Nahmias was scheduled to shoot Maria’s portrait, she was evicted from the trailer park where she lived with her three children. Her Latina landlady had “snooped around” and discovered Maria is HIV-positive.

“Here was an incident of bad behavior by someone in the community to someone beneath her,” Nahmias said. “Do I glaze over that? Or do I document it? I felt I had to bring that truth out and let people make of it what they will. It was amazing to me that Maria could put aside her own issues, her eviction, her fear and pain, her anger and sadness, and talk very candidly with me about her journey, what she’s doing now, how she’s surviving.”

Nahmias pointed out another photo: A laborer is in the shade of a grapevine, cutting down a bunch of grapes. He’s on one knee, his back ramrod straight, a hedge-clipper in his right hand, his left hand swathed with a protective cloth. A shaft of sunlight slants down on the grapes and makes them look like precious jewels. The light, the farm worker’s pose, his concentration — it looks like a religious moment in a classical painting.

“It had to be about 110 degrees when this photo was taken,” Nahmias said. “This gentleman was kneeling in this grape arbor all morning. I’d heard from a number of farm workers that they see their labor as a spiritual duty — helping to bring God’s bounty to the earth. Religion is one of the few shreds of dignity that farm workers have, something they can hold onto while doing enormously hard work and suffering degradation.”

Nahmias said more than a million people in California are involved in migrant farm labor, and the big growers have little or no human connection with them.

“A middleman-agent brings the growers undocumented laborers who are willing to work for three or four dollars per hour,” Nahmias said. “If a worker is owed [money], what’s he going to do? He doesn’t speak English; he can’t go to court because he works six days a week, and there are 8,000 complaints piled up ahead of his.”

While preparing this exhibition, Nahmias said he came to believe “that no other group of people in this country works as hard and is paid so little for that work. And no group plays such a vital role in preserving the lifestyle that we’re fortunate to have.

“I hope that this exhibit lays a few seeds of compassion … so that when people look at ‘the immigration issue,’ they’ll realize it’s a human issue…. We eat three meals a day, and we’re incredibly lucky to do that…. I do educational programs, I talk with the kids, I tell them, ‘Look, you’re going for your Happy Meal, this is where that tomato comes from’…. [So] by virtue of the lives we lead, as Americans and as human beings, we owe it to the migrant workers to look in their eyes and understand how we’re reflected in their eyes. We owe it to them to understand what responsibility we have.”

The exhibition continues through May 25 at the Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. “The Migrant Project” book is available at the Museum of Tolerance. Half the proceeds from book sales will go to organizations helping migrant farm laborers. For more information, call (310) 553-8403.

Debbie Friedman, L.A. Opera, Norman Mailer and David Mamet


Saturday the 3rd

Debbie Friedman strums and sings old and new favorites from her Jewish folk repertoire tonight at Shomrei Torah Synagogue. Twenty bucks gets you in the door, or splurge on the $100 patron seats for preferred seating and parking, plus a copy of her new CD, “One People,” and entree to the exclusive meet-and-greet with the artist herself.

7:30 p.m. $10 (ages 18 and under), $20 (general), $100 (patron). 7353 Valley Circle Blvd., West Hills. R.S.V.P., (818) 346-0811.

‘ target=’_blank’>www.ticketweb.com.

Tuesday the 6th

The Faces of War From Israel to Africa


If Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” has shown that even Israeli commandos, some of the most battle-hardened warriors on the planet, ruminate over their roles, photographer Rachel Papo, a former member of the Israel Defense Forces, demonstrates in a new exhibition of her photographs that such pensiveness is not limited to male soldiers. Papo’s show, “Serial No. 3817131,” opens at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery on March 18 and focuses on young Israeli women in uniform.

These are women of all ethnic backgrounds — light-skinned Ashkenazis, as well as Sephardics hailing from Arab countries and East Africa. Some wear spectacles, others retain youthful red splotches on their faces, yet they all don the green attire of the military in their caps, shirts, sweaters and jackets. Even their jerrycans, or canteens, are green. But the women are not.

True, there is one freckle-faced, blue-eyed redhead, her body curled toward the camera, her hands cupped in the manner of a cat relaxing its paws. With an innocent yet seductive smile on her feline features, she almost seems to purr. Yet, like all the other women, she has an M-16 slung over her shoulder.

Another young soldier named Dana, her name painted on a door, smokes a cigarette, dangling it in a pose reminiscent of James Dean. Her curly russet locks, almost as long as Rapunzel’s, come down close to her waist in the illuminated portion of the photo on the right side of the frame. On the left, there is an arbor, completely dark except for a light in the distance, while in front of Dana the cigarette ashes merge indecipherably with wood scraps on the ground. A tall, spindly wooden pole frames the left side of the picture at an angle, while the green door to the right is also askew. Only Dana, in the middle, seems balanced.

Papo, in a phone call from Brooklyn, says that the point of her exhibition is “to show a side about the Israeli military that is less obvious and not about politics, but about the human condition.”

When Papo was in the military back in the late 1980s and early 1990s she was depressed.

“You’re 18 years old, and you have dreams and friends and boyfriends, and that is totally cut off and restricted,” she says, adding that in the military, “You sleep where you don’t want to sleep and eat what you don’t want to eat.”

The response she has gotten to her photos has been quite emotional, particularly from women. Many Americans, male and female, have told Papo that they were not aware that military service is mandatory for women in Israel.

If they had any doubt, there is a photo of two soldiers, standing almost at attention several yards apart, as if on guard duty. Their faces obscured by the brim of their caps, they bow slightly so they can read the Torah. We are reminded that this is a Jewish state, and that, with rare exception, even the religious must serve in the military.

“Serial No. 3817131” opens Saturday, March 18, at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery. Reception from 6-8 p.m. on March 18. The exhibition runs through April 15. 6150 Wilshire Blvd., just west of Fairfax Avenue, (323) 937-0765.

The women of Darfur do almost everything except serve as soldiers. According to Ron Haviv, a war photographer who first made his name in 1989 when he photographed a Noriega rival being tortured in the streets of Panama, the African women in the Sudan farm, gather food, collect firewood and take care of the children. In venturing out for firewood, a journey often lasting several days, they risk being raped. If the men go out, they will be murdered.

Haviv’s exhibition, “The Children of Darfur,” opening at UCLA Hillel on March 12, was commissioned by UNICEF to document the plight of children in a part of the world plagued not only by drought, malnutrition and infectious disease, but also genocide. Arab militias, known as janjaweed, have killed thousands and displaced more than a million Darfurians, roughly half of them children under 18, Haviv says.

One photo reveals only the right eye of a young girl who is telling Haviv that she has been raped; the rest of her body and face is occluded by a striped scarf and the cropping of the photo. This shattered image reflects how much she has lost.

In an interview in a Hancock Park office, the photographer explains that the girl is 12 years old. He utters these words softly, with a great deal of restraint.

His garb is eclectic — a faded Chicago Cubs baseball cap, an old black vest and a green scarf so discolored and battered it looks as if it has been riddled with bullets; the image is fitting, since Haviv says he has been shot at more times than he can remember. He says that he has been jailed on several occasions, beaten by captors, and even put on a death list by a Bosnian Serb warlord.

Yet despite the harshness of his life, he uses a warm, red filter in many of his images of these young African women and boys living in internal displaced persons (IDP) camps. One striking girl holds the cap to a bottle in her hand. Statuesque and beautiful, with a pink abaya (scarf) wrapped around her body and head, she has just gotten water at an IDP camp. Her huge, black eyes stand out amidst the blurry background.

Haviv, 40, is part of a group of war photographers known as Seven, based on the original membership of seven photojournalists who formed the unit within days of Sept. 11. He says he learned from his work in Panama in the late 1980s that photography can play a role in “the process.” He bemoans the clichés of politicians who proclaimed, “Never Again,” after the Rwanda genocide 12 years ago. He hopes that students in high school and college come to see his exhibition. “As they move into positions of power, they can help and confront and influence policy whether in government or business.”

Photography, he says, “remains as a piece of evidence, a document, a historical record” for holding people accountable. “No one can say that they didn’t know.”

“The Children of Darfur” will be exhibited at UCLA Hillel from March 12 to April 23. Reception March 12, 4-6 p.m. 574 Hilgard Ave., (310) 208-3081.

Haviv and four of his colleagues from Seven also traveled with members of Doctors Without Borders to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), another African republic at war. The result is a group show opening March 16 at the Stephen Cohen Gallery titled, “Democratic Republic of Congo: Forgotten War,” featuring photos from the five photojournalists of the victims of the largely invisible and unknown war taking place in the DRC, known formerly as Zaire. Haviv, who conceived the project, notes that “more people are dying in the DRC than at any time since World War II. Almost 4 million people have died in seven years.” He says that translates presently into about 38,000 deaths per month from hunger, AIDS and other diseases, as well as bullets — despite what he calls “the largest U.N. peacekeeping effort” in the world.

Haviv believes that where Darfur’s problems could be ameliorated by economic sanctions against the Sudanese, who would be forced to stop aiding the janjaweed, the Congo’s situation is much more complicated. For one, militias from all over the region have entered the Congo to fight for gold and other minerals. Secondly, AIDS, not a major factor in Darfur, has decimated the Congolese. A black-and-white picture by Antonin Kratochil shows the emptiness in the wide pupils of a woman living with the disease. Her dark eyes blend in with her skin and form an abyss of despair.

A number of photos that are both starker and bleaker than the Darfur images show the scourge of AIDS and of the sex trade. Many are shot in black and white, without the warm, red filters used for Haviv’s other project, though there is one color photo by Joachim Ladefoged, a Seven photographer, that recalls Haviv’s image of the raped Darfurian girl — this one shows only the right side of a 25-year-old sex worker’s face, visible through a gauzy, green curtain behind which she services men. It, like the other photos, reveals the hidden and hopeless nature of this war.

Still, as Beverly Feldman, who along with Haviv organized the exhibition for the gallery, says, “The body of work is not a group of horrific photos. It’s not full of decapitated bodies. It’s disease and neglect, other kinds of man’s inhumanity” that is on display in these photos.

Feldman was particularly drawn to this project because “not a lot of attention has been paid” to the Congo and its “particular blight on the face of Africa.”

“It’s such an unknown, forgotten place, that its [lack of attention] is very insidious.”

“Democratic Republic of Congo: Forgotten War” opens at the Stephen Cohen Gallery on March 16. Reception on April 6 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a talk by photographer Ron Haviv and Doctors Without Borders at 7 p.m. Exhibition runs through May 6. 7358 Beverly Blvd. (323) 937-5525.

 

Capturing Chasidim


As a street photographer, Maya Dreilinger echoes the sentiments of the 1982 “Missing Persons” song “Walking in LA.” Driving around the city, “you don’t see a lot of people walking,” she said. “But the Chasidism are always out on the streets and not just on Saturdays.”

With her camera, Dreilinger spent about two months documenting the streets of the Chasidic community bordering La Brea Avenue. Her exhibition, “La Brea on Robertson,” currently on display at the Workmen’s Circle, presents an intriguing mix of photographs and paintings that in some ways reveal more about the artist than the subject matter.

Born in Israel and raised in Los Angeles, the 30-year-old Dreilinger admits to having pre-conceived judgments about Chasidic Jews before she embarked on her project.

“I believed that their culture was restrictive, that women were always patronized,” she said. “But being around them for two months, I was humbled. Now I have no more anger or resentment, only respect.”

While other photographers have sought to document Chasidism from more of an insider’s perspective, Dreilinger purposefully maintained her distance as an outsider. She wandered around the La Brea area dressed as she normally does and refused the occasional invitation to dinner at someone’s home.

“I didn’t want to go in that direction,” she said. “I wanted to be only the respectful observer.”

Upon viewing Dreilinger’s work, Eric Gordon, director of the Workmen’s Circle, immediately thought of Roman Vishniac’s photographs of pre-war Poland.

“Maya has a discerning eye, and I love the humor in her work,” he said. “As for her subject matter, we may not be a religious-centered organization, but we are devoted to Yiddish culture. A socialist from the 1930s might have condemned this exhibit, but we’ve evolved since then. They [Chasidim] are part of our Yiddish community.”

The majority of Dreilinger’s photographs clearly show her outsider’s perspective. Several depict rear-view shots of Chasidic men and boys walking down the street and radiating inscrutability. A Chasidic boy, shown in the midst of prayer in an unidentifiable interior, seems completely absorbed in his own world. In “Kosher by Kehilla,” two women walking toward a street sign for a kosher bakery appear partially visible. Only their skirts and the top of a hat can be glimpsed.

In contrast, other photos subtly reveal the intrusion of the modern world. “Grandfather’s Touch” shows a little girl, with her father and grandfather, who carries the kind of plastic backpack desired by most trendy kindergartners. In “The Alley,” a group of black-garbed men pass an alleyway near the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. Three men who appear to be Hispanic laborers inhabit the alleyway. One of them looks at the Chasidim, wide-eyed curiosity written across his face.

Often, Dreilinger succeeds in capturing the community’s varying attitudes in being photographed by an outsider. Some of her subjects smile broadly and pose for the camera. Some regard the camera as an alien interloper.

In some portraits, a sly humor can be found. A striking juxtaposition, for example, appears in “Trio,” where through the illusion of a reflection two young men look as if they stand next to the bust of a mannequin while they peer into the window of a clothing store. At first glance, the headless mannequin bears some resemblance to a Torah scroll.

Dreilinger took 14 of her black-and-white photographs and painted over their surfaces, sometimes leaving only a portion of the original image intact. These are hung situated across from the originals, and many a viewer will be tempted to keep traveling back and forth to cross reference the works. These paintings explode with vibrant color and whimsicality and, for the most part, do not evoke the sense of restraint and limitation found in many of the original photographs.

Take the Chasidic women walking toward the bakery sign. In the painted version, they wear bright red suits. The dress of an elderly woman standing outside the Westside Jewish Community Center on Olympic Boulevard has been colored in with bright flowers suggestive of a Hawaiian lei. In “Close-up,” a young, handsome Chasidic man posing against a wall has been colored and shaded so that he resembles an urban nightlife character from a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.

In other paintings, Dreilinger has added natural landscapes that sometimes enhance and other times completely obfuscate the original photograph. One of these paintings depicts two Chasidic girls with their hands over their mouths wandering amidst a rural, mountainous backdrop. In the original photograph titled “Contemplating Girls,” they stand on a city street with other schoolchildren.

Dreilinger says the paintings brought her “emotional release.”

“I hope I captured what is mysterious about these people and at the same time, beautiful. I wasn’t interested in showing ugliness,” she said. “But I did want to open people’s eyes.”

“La Brea on Roberston: Paintings and Photographs by Maya Dreilinger,” Jan. 22-March 5, Shenere Velt Gallery, Workmen’s Circle, 1525 S. Roberston Blvd. For more information, call (310) 552-2007.

 

Three Museum Shows Span Gamut of Arts


Architecture is for the photographer Julius Shulman what green peppers and sand dunes were for Edward Weston or Yosemite for Ansel Adams. Born in 1910, Shulman’s iconic images have become a staple of every book or magazine that touches on the subject of modern architecture.

In recognition of his reach and historical significance, the Getty Center-Research Institute acquired Shulman’s archive of 70,000 images earlier this year; currently, a selection of those images is included in “Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis” in the institute’s exhibition gallery.

Shulman sees formal elegance in what others might overlook: banks, gas stations, churches and restaurants, for example. His keen compositional eye discovers the iconic aesthetics of edifices, revealing and reveling in their symmetry. Although he has photographed using color throughout his career, his work is best known for its vivid use of black and white.

Brooklyn born but an L.A. resident since 1920, Shulman has also documented the development and urbanization of Southern California with the same eye for detail that New Deal photographers like Dorothea Lange recorded the Dust Bowl.

Shulman’s structural subjects stretch from the Shangri La mountains in Ojai to Chavez Ravine to the Stratosphere at Los Angeles International Airport.

A 1964 gelatin silver print of the Richard Neutra-designed Moore residence in Ojai prominently features the mountain range where Frank Capra shot the Himalayan sequences of 1937’s “Lost Horizon.”

A 1953 photo reveals the Chicano neighborhoods of Chavez Ravine, before they were bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium, .

A 1960 image of the famed Chemosphere, created by John Lautner and now belonging to the German publisher Benedikt Taschen, illustrates the futuristic vogue of space-age design as Kennedy’s New Frontier dawned.

A 1947 photograph of the patio of the 1936 home Neutra originally designed for movie director Josef von Sternberg shows the architect socializing with Ayn Rand at her Northridge home, where the author wrote “Atlas Shrugged.”

In an interview, Shulman declared: “The point is, I want to expose to the public what it’s like to live in a contemporary house … not 1890 or 1790, but a house that is done in this day and age … to avail ourselves of the best possible architecture … floor plan, the best productive way of enjoying their lifestyles…. So, my photography has successfully portrayed for 69 years how it is to live in a good house.”

The exhibition shows that Shulman’s interests aren’t limited to homes, however. Throughout the decades, Shulman’s unerring eye has captured the architectural Zeitgeist of each era. For instance, the peaked Melanesian-style roof of Coffee Dan’s coffee shop in Van Nuys expresses the tiki craze of postwar Pacific Island-inspired architecture. Another series from the 1960s focuses on churches in California, Colorado and Illinois.

Shulman still lives in the same house in the Hollywood hills that architect Raphael Soriano built for him in 1960. Still feisty at 95, he continues to take photographs and travels widely. He also lectures and presents workshops and seminars, most recently in Philadelphia and Frankfurt.

“Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis” continues through Jan. 22 at the Getty Center-Research Institute, 1200 Getty Center Drive Los Angeles. For information call (310) 440-7300.

As a child, teachers complained to my parents that I was neglecting my studies by “drawing flying men,” yet I went on to create Manaman, the Noble Savage, the first Polynesian comic strip published in a weekly newspaper, The Samoa Times. Cartoon and comic book artists have long been the Rodney Dangerfields of artists, denied respect by the art world establishment, so I’m personally gratified that the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art have joined forces for an unprecedented collaboration to present the dual-venue exhibition, “Masters of American Comics.”

This rock-’em-sock-’em exhibition reveals why there are often more exclamation points in a single comic than in the entire Bible, displaying 900 objects by 15 cartoon and comic book artists who helped shaped this cinematic medium with its close-ups, long shots and camera angles.

“More than half of the artwork displayed [are] original drawings by the artists’ … pen and ink, that are one of a kind … made for reproduction in the newspapers or comic books, and a large selection of old printed newspaper pages and comic books … and graphic novels,” explained co-curator/cartoonist Brian Walker, son of Mort Walker, creator of “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois.”

Some may feel the show makes omissions, such as DC Comics, which gave us “Superman” and “Batman.” But Walker said he and his co-curator, art historian John Carlin, selected the artists included in the show because they were “all … very influential in their times and influenced other artists.”

The exhibition “focuses on form over content,” he said. The artists include George Herriman (“Krazy Kat”), E.C. Segar (“Popeye”), Chester Gould (“Dick Tracy”), Milton Caniff (“Terry and the Pirates,” “Steve Canyon”), Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”), Will Eisner (“The Spirit”), Jack Kirby (“Captain America,” “Fantastic Four”), Harvey Kurtzman (“Mad Magazine”), R. Crumb (“Zap Comix”) and Art Spiegelman (“Maus,” “In the Shadow of No Towers”).

As with movies, musicals and other art forms, Jews “made a tremendous contribution in all areas of cartooning,” Walker said. “Most of the early comic book artists were Jewish.”

Fleeing pogroms and other persecution, newly arrived immigrants and their children often felt powerless, so they compensated by creating superheroes who defended the underdog, especially during the Nazi era. Ancient traditions, from Moses to the Golem, influenced these Jewish artists, from Superman’s Siegel and Schuster to Batman’s Bob Kane to Spiderman and the Fantastic Four’s Stan Lee to Li’l Abner’s Al Capp. Of the artists represented in the exhibition, Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg), Eisner, Kurtzman and Spiegelman all are Jewish.

The Hammer’s portion of the exhibition presents work from the first half of the 20th century, while MOCA is showing work from the 1950s on. Admission at each of the venues also includes a $2 discount for admission at the other museum. As the Thing, who was revealed to be a Jew, says, “It’s clobbering time” for the joint exhibitions through March 12.

“Masters of American Comics” continues through March 12 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 626-6222, and at the UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.

Jennifer Bornstein’s work on view at MOCA may initially appear to the unsuspecting eye to be pencil sketches, but they are, rather, copperplate etchings rendered through the archaic intaglio printmaking process used by Rembrandt, Blake and Goya.

Bornstein’s acid-dipped, serialized image-making technique is the most outstanding aspect of this first installment in the museum’s new Focus series, which is designed to highlight Southern California artists.

Produced since 2003, the 55 images by the Seattle-born 35-year-old include slices of life depicting ordinary people Bornstein has encountered, as well as abstractions and historical personages derived from photographic sources. The latter include images of Margaret Mead clad in aboriginal apparel, taken during the 1920s when the anthropologist conducted her South Seas fieldwork for “Coming of Age in Samoa.” In the frontal full shot, “Margaret Mead in Authentic Samoan Dress,” a youthful Mead stands on a mat of plaited pandanus, or coconut leaves, in a tapa lavalava (barkcloth sarong) that is decorated with breadfruit leaf designs.

My favorite work in the show is the most detailed etching, which best reveals Bornstein’s deft touch. In “Study for 16MM Film (Ruth Benedict, Lover and Mentor of Margaret Mead, Kneeling on a Hand Woven Navajo Blanket),” the ethnologist wears traditional haberdashery and a meticulously rendered garment designed with Pacific Northwest Indian animal iconography.

Bornstein said she feels an affinity for Mead’s work.

“There’s an anthropological aspect to what I do,” said the artist, who lives in Hollywood. She called her subject “a curious character … simultaneously really wonderful and problematic in the way she practiced anthropology.

“She’s a woman who got so far in that field. I felt she was very familiar to me, and I was working in a way that wasn’t so far from her own work.”

Other notables represented include ex-City Councilman Joel Wachs, Fatty Arbuckle, Lotte Lenya and even Bertolt Brecht’s Santa Monica home, where the playwright lived after fleeing Hitler. In a closely cropped etching redolent with irony, silent film comedian Buster Keaton — famed for his agility — faces the viewer, standing on crutches, his right foot bandaged.

Other less exotic works by Bornstein, who is also a sculptor and experimental filmmaker, are ruminations on roommates, relatives and friends going about everyday activities. These include “Alex Doing His Homework” and “Teenage Roommate Digging in Fridge.” They fall somewhere between ho-ho-ho and ho-hum.

Bornstein’s abstractions include proposals for sculptures, plus “Maps of Trails in Griffith Park, Drawn From Memory While Waiting for the Bus in New York City.” The latter resembles the playing board for the global conquest game, Risk, and is whimsical at best.

“Jennifer Bornstein” continues through January at MOCA, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles (213) 626-6222.

Ed Rampell is the author of “Progressive Hollywood, a People’s Film History of the United States” (The Disinformation Company, 2005).

 

Spectator – Lessing’s Shots of Liberty


Erich Lessing received his first camera when he exited the synagogue from his bar mitzvah in Vienna in 1936.

“There was no idea of taking up photography as a profession,” said Lessing, 82, from his house in Austria. “In a good Jewish family in Vienna you would only be a lawyer or a doctor.”

But the camera stayed with Lessing when he left Austria for Israel in 1939 to escape the Nazis. There he took photographs for the British army. When he returned to Austria in 1947, he started working as a photojournalist. His interest was the newly communist Eastern Europe, and the photographs he took in Austria and in Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 have become Cold War icons.

For one week, starting Sept. 25, a selection of Lessing’s photographs of Austria will go on display at the Beverly Hills Country Club in conjunction with Austrian American Day. The exhibition, titled “From Liberation to Liberty” includes images famously emblematic of the period, such as “Four in a Jeep” — a photograph of four military policeman, one each from the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union, a symbol of the post-war occupation in Austria.

Lessing did not stay with this reportage: “After the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, all the photographers who had been there saw that it was not our documents that were changing political decisions. I do not want to downgrade the influence of photography — the photography at the end of the Vietnam War was very influential. But it took another 50 years for the end of communism in Europe.”

In 1960, Lessing started taking photographic “evocations” of the lives of great poets, musicians and scientists, often taking still photographs of their work in museums. The result was more than 30,000 photographs of art, history and archeology that have filled 40 books. But his seminal work remains the photographs of the 1940s and ’50s.

“I found it a very strange title, being dubbed the photographer of the Cold War,” he said. “But I think it is true.”

“From Liberation to Liberty,” will be on display at the Beverly Hills Country Club, 3084 Motor Ave., as part of the Austrian-American Day Celebration. For more information, call (310) 444-9310.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, March 26

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels makes an effort at inclusiveness with its new exhibit, “Passion/Passover: Artists of Faith Interpret Their Holy Days.” On view through the month of April, the show features works by seven Jewish and seven Christian artists, including Barbara Drucker, Laurie Gross and the Rev. Michael Tang. Drucker’s contribution is a “Song of Songs”-inspired piece, while Gross’ incorporates the tallit into a work called, “Miriam and the Women.”

6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (Mon.-Fri.), 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Sat.), 7 a.m.-6 p.m. (Sun.). 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles. (213) 680-5224. www.olacathedral.org.

Sunday, March 27

Anne Frank would have been 75 years old this year, had she lived. Celebrate her words and her memory through the play written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” on stage now through April 17 at the Chance Theater.

8 p.m. (Thurs.-Sat.), 2 p.m. (Sun.). $17-$20. 5552 E. Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. (714) 777-3033.

Monday, March 28

Newly released on DVD is the documentary, “Shanghai Ghetto.” Martin Landau narrates the film about the Jews of Shanghai, who escaped Nazi persecution in the Japanese-controlled city, one of the only places that would allow them to enter.

$26.95. www.docurama.com.

Tuesday, March 29

George Washington gets his mug on a dollar, but what did Martha ever get for her troubles? Cokie Roberts corrects the oversight in her book, “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation,” which becomes the topic of conversation when she visits the Skirball this evening. A book signing follows.

7:30 p.m. $5-$15. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (866) 468-3399.

Wednesday, March 30

American icon photographer and icon in her own right, Annie Leibovitz, displays her stills of musicians at Fahey/Klein Gallery’s “American Music” exhibition. Images of Willie Nelson, Beck and Michael Stipe are just some you’ll see.

10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.). 148 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 934-2250.

Thursday, March 31

Catch the new Murray Mednick trifecta beginning tonight at Electric Lodge. The first two of his four-part series, “The Gary Plays,” premiere tonight, with the third premiering tomorrow. They follow Gary, a poor former actor dealing with his son’s murder. Stay tuned for news on part four….

8 p.m. (both premieres). $20 (one evening), $30 (both evenings). 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710.

Friday, April 1

The first Israeli feature to be screened at Sundance, “Nina’s Tragedies,” premiered in 2004 – then took another year to make it into L.A. and New York theaters. But the wait may well be worth it. The film about a 13-year-old boy’s crush on his beautiful and recently widowed Aunt Nina, and about the other quirky characters that surround him, opens today in Laemmle theaters.

Laemmle Sunset 5, Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena. www.laemmle.com.

A Photographer’s Love Letter to Israel


“So what were my dying words?” Hallie Lerman laughs as she recounts the dream in which she was on her deathbed, surrounded by her husband and two adult daughters. “Not ‘I love you, or take good care of my future grandchildren.’ No. I said, ‘Don’t abandon Israel!”

Lerman, a birdlike, intense writer and photographer, laughs once more at the over-the-top fervor of her dream.

But then again even while awake, she speaks of the Jewish State with the kind of passion one might discuss a lover. The ardor is evident in her simple yet striking new show, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” now at Sinai Temple, her photographic valentine to Israel.

On a recent afternoon at Sinai, Lerman, describes how she began the show during the Iraq War last year.

“The press was so anti-Israel,” she says, scrunching her delicate hands into fists. “The country I knew was not what I saw on TV.”

So Lerman — who says she’s influenced by legendary photojournalist W. Eugene Smith and documentary street photographer Diane Arbus — decided to counter the images with images of her own. She perused the thousands of black-and-white photos she’s taken during more than 30 trips to the Jewish State and selected 50 she felt best “showed the breadth and scope of Israeli life, society, land and people.” She paired each image with pertinent text: “I tried to communicate the beauty and the struggle, the fight and the will … of this extraordinary and unique and profoundly personal country,” she says.

The pictures in her “Exhibition” are haunting: A soldier weighed down with army gear becomes a metaphor for the psychological burden of living in a besieged country; a crevice in a settlement wall looks like the view from a medieval fortress; a sunset in a vast, black sky reflects Lerman’s view of Israel as “my light in a world of darkness.”

OK, she says, pausing during an interview, so perhaps she’s drifting into over-the-top territory again. But she believes her feelings make sense, considering that she grew up in a Bible-Belt town where she keenly felt the sting of living in the Diaspora and what Israel can mean to such Jews.

As a young child in Evansville, Ind., on the Kentucky border, Lerman believed the slur “Rich Jew” was one word.

Nevertheless, Lerman felt fiercely proud of her heritage, courtesy of her strongly Zionistic family. Theodore Herzl had selected her Russian-immigrant grandfather as a delegate to the Zionist conventions of the early 20th century; Lerman’s Brooklyn-bred father learned his own lessons about the importance of a Jewish state while studying medicine in Nazi Germany.

“He saw the Jewish State as a complete miracle, and the key to the survival of the Jewish people,” Lerman recalls.

Her own epiphany came during the Six-Day War, when Evansville’s non-Jews suddenly regarded Jews as heroes, rather than as outsiders.

While hitchhiking around the country at 17, she tagged along on a Christian group tour and marveled: “I’m the Jew, and they’re visiting my country. Having grown up the outsider, it was a feeling of finally coming home.”

Because Lerman eventually married an American, she did not make aliyah. However, because she was “utterly, madly in love with the country,” she frequently visited with her camera in tow — including one memorable trip a month before the Yom Kippur War. During those late summer weeks in 1973, she hung out with her American-born cousin, Jacob Rayman, a 19-year-old army medic, who obtained a 24-hour leave from his base to see her one more time before she returned home. It was the last time she ever saw him.

A month later, her mother phoned with devastating news: Rayman had been sent on a virtual suicide mission to rescue colleagues trapped in a bunker in the Golan Heights. He had died in the first battle of the Yom Kippur war at a tiny outpost called Tel Saki.

Unresolved questions about his death eventually led her to create her acclaimed 2000 book, “Crying for Imma: Battling for the Soul of the Golan Heights” (Night Vision Press, $25), which combines interviews and photos of the soldiers before, during and after the melee. The title came from a soldier who said he cried for his mother during the battle.

The title of her new exhibit, “Pictures,” is deliberately vague. “I didn’t want it to include the word, ‘Israel,’ because I want non-Jews and unaffiliated Jews to see the show,” she says. Her tacit message is, “Don’t abandon Israel.”

“I want people to come fall in love with the country,” she says.

For more information about the show running through June13, visit www.nightvisionpress.com .

The Haunting of the Weird


Diane Arbus, acknowledged as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, thought photographs were the ultimate enigma.

“A photograph is a secret about a secret,” she said. “The more it tells you, the less you know.”

Arbus was a pampered Jewish princess turned chronicler of the weird. That she, of all photographers, would characterize photographs as secretive is somewhat paradoxical. Her most famous images have a startling directness about them. The photographs pull back the curtain on a surreptitious underbelly of people that are not “like us.” They expose the sideshow of society, compelling the viewer to confront things that he or she might be embarrassed of and would prefer to not see.

But the directness is deceptive. The images force us to look, but reveal nothing of what we are looking at. Why does the wife in “A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, New York City” (1966) look like a drag queen impersonating Elizabeth Taylor? Why does the son in that same image look cross-eyed and deranged — is he mugging for the camera, or is his face always like that? And why does the father’s lack of pizzazz seem so horrifying in that context? An Arbus photograph might show, but it never tells.

On Feb. 29, the first major Arbus retrospective since 1972 will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Diane Arbus, Revelations” consists of nearly 200 of the artist’s most significant photographs. The exhibition will also display her contact sheets, cameras, letters and notebooks, to give some indication of Arbus’ working methods and intellectual influences. The exhibition — and the accompanying book of the same name that her daughter, Doon, put together — are the most complete presentation of Arbus’ work and life ever assembled.

“She was really an extraordinary photographer,” said Robert Flick, a photographer who also teaches photography at USC. “What is extraordinary about her is that she seems to know where she can place herself to be at just the right distance from her subjects. [The distance and framing] is always one of intimacy, even when she is looking hard at something.”

Arbus was born Diane Nemerov in 1923 in Manhattan to wealthy Jewish parents who owned upscale clothing stores. Judaism was not the most central aspect of the Nemerovs life, but it was an important identifying feature for them. Part of the “gilded ghetto” — a clique of wealthy Jews who lived uptown, the Nemerovs sent their children to Sunday school, and they celebrated the holidays. When Diane’s sister, Renee, announced that she wanted to marry a non-Jew, her parents tried to buy him off.

Arbus called her JAPy upbringing “irrational” and “unreal,” and later, through her work, she tried to distance herself from it — to find the world that was the antithesis of the one she came from.

Arbus started out as a fashion photographer, working with her husband, Allan Arbus, shooting department store newspaper ads and fashion features for glossy magazines. Later in 1956, when her marriage broke up, Arbus started taking photographs on her own. She became a portrait photographer, and prowled the streets of New York and New Jersey hunting for the subjects that could evince the startling quality that typified so much of her work.

Jewishness was not endemic to Arbus’ work, but nor was it unfamiliar to it. Arbus photographed Jewish matrons in an attempt to study, as Patricia Bosworth puts it in “Diane Arbus, a Biography” (Norton, 1995), “The relationship between role-playing and cultural identity.”

In 1963, Arbus shot “A Jewish couple dancing, N.Y.C” — the middle-aged duo garishly beaming for the camera, insulated from the world in their bourgeois happiness. One of Arbus’ canonical images is of a Jew. “A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, N.Y” is the photograph of Eddie Carmel, who was 8 feet tall and weighed 495 pounds. Carmel was Arbus’ photographic subject for 10 years, but this photograph alone manages to encapsulate the horror of Carmel’s difference. In it, Carmel’s parents look up at him as if they are distant from their progeny and afraid and bewildered of his size. With his cane, his hunch, the sheepish hand in the pocket, Carmel, too, seems unsure of how he got that way and what the purpose of his size really is.

Arbus’ fascination with the oddities of society fulfilled her artistic drive, but it did little to quell her inner emotional turmoil. Toward the end of her life, Arbus became very depressed. In 1971, at the age of 48, she slit her wrists. She left behind a plethora of images that, even 30 years after her death, still maintain that elusive quality that she infused them with.

“Diane Arbus, Revelations” opens on Feb. 29 at the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. To purchase
tickets, call (877) 522-6255 or visit www.lacma.org .

Meant to Be


Earlier this year, two remarkable authors came to town and changed the way I thought about being Jewish.

Frederic Brenner, the French photographer, came to speak about his new book, "Diaspora: Exiles at Home" (HarperCollins). The product of 25 years of work, the book contains photographs of Jews living very different kinds of lives in 45 different countries. The images are powerful, as are the accompanying analyses by some of the great thinkers and writers of our time.

There are photos of the Orthodox celebrating Hoshana Rabah in Mea Shearim, "recreating a Polish shtetl," Brenner saidat a reception in his honor, "a reverse journey." And there was a striking photo of a group of Jewish barbers in the former Soviet Union, taken years after Brenner first photographed them in their native land, now posed together in the Dead Sea, in their new home — reinventing an old life in a new land.

The theme, echoing God’s commandment to Abraham, is a powerful one for Brenner: "Get out of your house where everything is fixed and go into the house of wandering," he said. "Whether we’ve wanted to or not, we’ve been recreating this for 4,000 years."

The photographs manage to capture the obvious physical aspects of this journey, but in doing so, they point to the spiritual aspects, too. The result is that although we’ve wandered as a people, from Cochin to Kiryat Arba to the Conejo Valley, each of us has also embarked on a personal Jewish journey, and the sum total of these is the constant re-imagination of what it means to be Jewish, of Judaism itself.

"Jewish identity belongs to the Jew," Brenner said. "It’s not disappearing, it’s reconfigurating. Each fragment of the puzzle needs the other to exist."

I thought of Brenner when a week later, I sat down to speak with Walter Anderson. On the surface, here are two men with little in common. Anderson is CEO of Parade Publications, publisher of Parade Magazine, the largest circulation weekly in America. He is by appearances a card-carrying member of the Eastern Establishment: good name, major corporate title and those lovely patrician manners.

Imagine my surprise to discover that he’s actually Jewish.

No. Imagine his surprise.

Anderson was a 20-year-old Marine serving in Vietnam, when he returned for his father’s funeral. His father, William Anderson, was a cruel, violent man who beat Anderson mercilessly. After the funeral, Anderson turned to his mother and asked, "The man we just buried … was he my father?"

His mother’s answer — that Anderson’s real father was a Jewish man with whom she had spent a single night of adulterous passion — sent him on a journey of spiritual discovery. In his recent memoir, "Meant to Be" (HarperCollins), Anderson reconstructs the mystery of his past. He is blessed that his guide into this Brave Jew World is his close friend from the world of publishing, Elie Wiesel, who acts as rabbi, muse and sounding board.

The Jewish identity Anderson assembles, the Jewish life he now lives, may lack the memory of grandparents and familiar foods and family holidays, but it is rich in an adult appreciation for the wisdom of his tradition.

"I believe in three things," Anderson told me. "I believe there is one God who is indivisible. I believe we are judged in this life by our behavior. And I believe that though we cannot always choose what happens to us in life, but we can always choose our response."

The impact of his mother’s revelation grew slowly, until he found himself on a work-related trip standing before the memorial to the Jews massacred at Babi Yar. "That moment hit me like a slap," he said. "It forced me to recognize who I am. I’m not different from these people. I am of these people."

I found Anderson’s book — and Anderson himself — very moving. His is not only a great story well told, it is in a sense the story of every Jew I know. As much as his Jewishness was revealed to him, Anderson also had to choose how and why to be a Jew.

Making that choice, making it consciously, wisely, with knowledge and passion, is a task each of us faces. It is a personal task with communal consequences.

When I asked Anderson how he responds to those who won’t accept him as Jewish according to some interpretations of Jewish law, he waved it off. "You don’t hold the keys to the club I’m joining," he said. "I know who I am."

Last week, a Hillel Foundation study revealed that today’s college-age Jews are almost evenly divided between those with two Jewish parents and those with only one. The study "underscores what we’ve been saying all along," Paul Golin, spokesman for the Jewish Outreach Institute, told a reporter. These students are on a journey toward forming their identity, and the Jewish community should reach out, constantly and creatively, to help them along. Quite simply, the next generation of Jewish identity is up for grabs.

I might start by sending Anderson around to college campuses. He can tell them that despite his book’s title, the truth is that we are not meant to be anything other than what we choose.

Adding Soul to the Syllabus


One by one, a class of sixth-graders read aloud a passage and title that each has selected to go with one of Zion Ozeri’s striking black-and-white portraits.

Seated with the young critics at Morasha Jewish Day School, the New York photographer seems pleased when students accurately discern the context of his untitled images, which the students have filtered through their study of Jewish values.

Neither does he hesitate to crib from one who summoned a particularly apt metaphor for a photo of candle lighting. “What was that title?” he asked, scrambling for pen and paper during a morning-long session last month.

Ozeri is the third visual artist invited in two years to the 110-student school, the county’s smallest day school, located in Rancho Santa Margarita. The school’s progressive director, Eve Fein, is convinced that art can be an educator’s most powerful resource for giving dimension to abstract concepts from books.

“These are Jewish artists interested in making Judaism relevant by making traditions meaningful,” Fein said about Ozeri and other artists who have visited — a muralist and a ritual object maker.

The photographer’s muse is his Yemeni parents’ first home in Israel, a tented camp near Tel Aviv where a half-dozen languages and cultures mixed. His images capture disappearing traditions of his parents’ generation and evolved to focus on contrasts between generations.

The catalyst behind Fein’s creative approach to education is a high-minded, three-year research initiative whose outcome will defy objective measure. The aim is to add soul to the school syllabus.

Along the way, the surprising result at Morasha and other sites is a change of campus culture that redirects parents and staff every bit as much as students. The outcome is getting attention from national authorities in Jewish education, such as the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Morasha is one of eight schools selected nationwide to participate in the research, known as Jewish Day Schools for the 21st Century (JDS-21). It is underwritten by New York’s Avi Chai Foundation and directed by Michael Zeldin, a professor of Jewish education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s school of education.

While last century’s Jewish immigrants learned American values in day schools, Zeldin contends most teachers are poorly prepared to make the intercurricular connections expected of contemporary instructors. His premise is that day school students, removed from their immersion in American culture, should be absorbing more than secular subjects and Judaica. Parents, staff and the school environment all should support seizing Jewish moments in the academic day.

Zeldin’s proposed solution is deceptively simple. He asks administrators to use Jewish texts to start a campus conversation about identifying the school’s values; to find an imaginative way to express them; and to develop ways to integrate them into the school.

“Other schools have values like honesty and integrity, but they are not Jewish values tied to text,” said Zeldin, noting that a contemporary rabbi suggested a Jewish path exists to universal values. “This helps schools set a Jewish path,” Zeldin said.

It took two years for Morasha to distill its top 10 values: repairing the world, greater Jewry, faith, being a good person, Israel, prayer, education, customs and rituals, respect and community.

Kathleen A. Canter of Aliso Viejo, a parent who chaired Morasha’s CDS-21 task force, discovered that it was an enriching experience to study Jews from antiquity who grapple over values. Values take on deeper meaning when they come from your own history, she said.

Just articulating the values, Fein said, “helps sharpen or deepen their presence in our school.”

She also made the intellectual leap to see values depicted in images by Ozeri, who hopes to use Morasha’s project as a model elsewhere.

The entire sixth-grade class cherry-picked images from Ozeri’s portfolio that captured each of the school’s values. Before the photographer’s visit, students looked for texts to support their assumptions about the photos. The final piece was to give students a disposable camera to capture on film an image showing a Jewish value. Ozeri offered expert advice on composition. “You don’t have to go to India, like I did,” he said. “Use what you have.”

“This is nothing new,” said Lili B. Landman of Aliso Viejo, a mother with two girls at the school, who videotaped Ozeri’s presentation. “This school encourages [students] to go out and explore. It’s a different way of learning, with a camera. But they’ve done it in other ways, too.”

Zeldin applauds Fein for finding an innovative method to evoke the school’s values. “It’s the perfect point of entry because it speaks the language of children,” he said, who are visually oriented.

“Art touches the soul in a way spoken language rarely does,” Zeldin said.

Other schools involved also focused their agenda around Jewish values. Parents at the Rashi School of Newton, Mass., for example, were determined that the value of respect, recognized for teachers and students, also extend to them. Text study at the Pardes School in Arizona deepened surface relationships and provided a common language between parents and educators, who often spew jargon.

Some schools, which Zeldin declined to identify, lose patience with the process. “This process is meant to transform the ways schools do business,” Zeldin said. “To get there takes time. The detractors say, ‘Can’t we come up with a program for Jewish learning without the text?'”

Those engaged in the JDS-21 project are changed by it, he said, describing one task force that for a mutual friend decided to jointly purchase a gift. Their Shabbat-basket wedding gift included candlesticks, candles, wine and Jewish texts on love. “It was so meaningful for them to gather the text,” Zeldin said.

“Every time I hear those stories, I’m astounded,” he said. “The byproduct is more powerful than the product.”

Censoring Mr. Spock


Naked women covered in … tallitot and tefillin? The black-and-white photographs in "Shekhina" (Umbrage Editions, $39.95) a new book by Leonard Nimoy — a.k.a. "Star Trek’s" Mr. Spock — have ignited a debate in the Jewish community over art and censorship.

The storm over "Shekhina" — a kabbalistic term for the feminine aspect of the divine spirit — erupted after Nimoy embarked on a 26-city promotional tour that included a lecture at the Skirball Cultural Center last September.

Nimoy backed out of an Oct. 23 Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle fundraising dinner after a dispute began over his desire to show slides and discuss his monograph.

Barry Goren, executive director of the Seattle federation, said the group was not trying to act as some kind of "Ayatollah Khomeini," but felt it wasn’t a good idea to have Nimoy show potentially controversial slides at the dinner.

Nimoy’s works exploring Judaism and kabbalah blend light and shadow, figures and abstraction. Most of the book’s 54 photos are of nude women, many wearing prayer shawls and tefillin.

Nimoy, for his part, is not entirely upset by his 15 minutes of infamy.

"Let’s face it: I did the book in order to shine a light on an idea," he said, and the Seattle’s Jewish federation "shined a light on my book." — Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Magnolias and Menorahs


“Shalom Y’all: Images of Jewish Life in the American South” photography by Bill Aron, text by Vicki Reikes Fox (Algonquin Books, $24.95).

While the idea of Southern Jews may be as improbable for some as snacking on matzah while drinking a mint julep, in fact, the American South has had a thriving Jewish community since the early 1700s.

In their new book, “Shalom Y’all: Images of Jewish Life in the American South” photographer Bill Aron and writer Vicki Reikes Fox have complied a series of joyful black-and-white photographs and text celebrating this dual community: Southerners as defined by their location and lifestyle, Jews by virtue of their religion and their heritage.

Although the Jewish South has gained increased prominence in the popular imagination over the last few years — with books such as “The Ladies Auxiliary” about Memphis Jews by Tova Mirvis (Ballantine Books, 2000) and “My Father’s People” (Louisiana State University Press, 2002), a memoir of growing up Jewish in the South by Louis Decimus Rubin — “Shalom Y’all” is the first book to document modern Southern Jews with photography.

While the original Jewish settlers in the South during the 1700s were Sephardic, Ashkenazic Jewish peddlers were instrumental in helping to settle the South throughout much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Traveling from town to town to sell their wares, they eventually established stores and raised families. They participated in civic life, built synagogues and established cemeteries.

“Southern and Jewish are two words not often associated with each other,” said Aron, whose poetic images of Jews in America and abroad are featured prominently in collections from the Museum of Modern Art to the Skirball Cultural Center. Aron said that “Shalom Y’all” attempts to link them in a comprehensive look at the Southern Jewish experience. “The book presents a multidimensional portrait of contemporary Jewish life in the deep South as it has evolved from the early 1700s.”

That evolution has taken Jews from being peddlers to politicians. Aron tried to preserve the unique traditions of the Southern Jews he encountered. He captured sukkot decorated with recently harvested cotton in Mississippi; Joe’s Dreyfus Store Restaurant, opened in the late 1800s by Theodore Dreyfus in Lavonia, La., and a Jewish shrimper in New Orleans.

Over the last 12 years, the writer and photographer traveled throughout the deep South to Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama, photographing and collecting stories about the Southern Jewish life. “We tried to tell the unique story of the Southern Jewish experience through three distinct voices: Photographs, a narrative woven into descriptive captions of the photographs and stories told by Southern Jews about being Jewish in the South,” Aron explained.

Joe Erber, one of Aron’s subjects who lives in Greenwood, Miss., spoke of the dual identity he faced as a Southern Jew, “When I started school at Peter Rabbit kindergarten, I learned ‘Shema Yisrael’ was for home and synagogue, and ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ was for kindergarten.”

Most of their subjects handled their hyphenated identity with an ease and grace that surprised Aron, who for his entire life has lived in cities with large Jewish populations — Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

“As a Jew who lives surrounded by Jews, you take a sense of normalcy in being Jewish for granted. The real difference between Southern Jews and big-city Jews is that when you’re in the big city you happen to be Jewish; when you are in the South your Judaism brands you.”

Aron and Fox were linked to their subjects by the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, just outside Jackson, Miss., of which Fox is a founding project director. While at the museum, Fox had the idea of going around to photograph the disappearing small-town Jewish communities and the vibrant large-city communities in the South, which the museum was documenting, and brought Aron to the project. An exhibit of the photographs has been organized by the Skirball Cultural Center and will debut there Dec. 12. It will then travel across the country.

Fox, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., has kept her lilting accent despite having lived in Los Angeles for 17 years. “This project gave me the opportunity to tell the story of my heritage,” Fox told The Journal. “We were also able to tell the story of Southern Jews through an artistic eye. It is a little recognized story outside of the South — its history and complexities are unique from the mainstream Jewish American experience and all the richer for it.”

To learn more about Bill Aron’s work visit
www.billaron.com. To learn more about the Museum of the Southern Jewish
Experience, which is part of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern
Jewish Life, visit www.msje.org .

High-Contrast Photos


Photographer Bernard Mendoza encountered the blond, angelic-faced little boy one Saturday evening outside Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn on La Brea Avenue. “His eyes were wide and bright, his suit just one size too large — room to grow into,” the Venice photographer recalls.

The photo is one of several dozen pictures in Mendoza’s acclaimed photo-documentary, “From Generation to Generation,” which captures the lives of Chassidic Jews in modern America. Inspired by the pre-Holocaust photos of Roman Vishniac, the images depict the shtetl transplanted to Williamsburg and beyond: An elderly, stooped Satmar gazes at the camera with haunted eyes; a Chassid rushes to morning prayers past peeling, Yiddish-language storefronts; a man on a battered bicycle ignores the sexy magazine covers at a newsstand on Fairfax.

The series began when British-born commercial photographer Mendoza, 56, discovered he hated directing TV commercials and decided to embark upon a personal project, one prompted by his reexamination of his Anglicized Jewish roots. Over the next 14 years, he slowly, painstakingly gained access to communities from L.A. to Miami.

“The world of the [Chassidic] Jew is a world that is guarded tenaciously,” Mendoza explains. He blended into the scenery for days at a time at a shul or community center, holding his camera well below face level.Mendoza believes there is a powerful difference between his photographs and those published in Vishniac’s book, “A Vanished World.” “When you look deeply into the eyes of Vishniac’s subjects, there is a sense of fear,” he says. “But the American Chasidim project confidence. … [My] pictures hold testimony that Vishniac’s world did not totally vanish but continues strong and vibrant here in America.””From Generation to Generation” is at the University of Judaism, (310) 476-9777.

A ‘Life’ in Pictures


As a set photographer, Morris Kagan has shot some of the most recognizable stars in the world. His post-production work has covered the gamut — movies like "Titanic" and "Lost World: Jurassic Park."

"A Life of Photography," now exhibiting at the Consulate General of Germany, presents the other side of Kagan’s visual career where, as a photojournalist and artist, Kagan draws on his own experience as the son of Holocaust survivors (who met in an Estonian labor camp) and a past president of Second Generation.

"Wherever I go, my camera goes," Kagan told The Journal.

Indeed, Kagan’s worldly camera was there in 1989, on what would have been Adolph Hitler’s 100th birthday, in the very Braunau, Austria apartment complex where the Nazi dictator was born. And on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, that camera captured Helmut Kohl delivering a speech — the powerful image became a Jewish Journal cover.

"Clearly we grew up with signs of the Holocaust around our home," said Kagan, whose late father’s remembrance-themed artwork hangs in the houses of people such as Steven Spielberg. "But all of our lives we were told that the Germans were murderers, it’s in their nature. Something didn’t sit right with me. I needed to know that this next generation of Germans were not like their parents."

In fact, Kagan forged a friendship with Cornelius Schnauber, whose father was a Nazi, that has translated into nearly two decades of German-Jewish dialogues with other second-generation Jews and Germans.

If anything, Kagan hopes that the Holocaust-themed work in "A Life" will "convey the emotion, the faces of survivors and also those who may have been the other side, the perpetrators."

More than 30 images will comprise "A Life of Photography," which will feature Holocaust-related imagery, but also captures the 1992 L.A. riots and an L.A. gay/lesbian parade. Ultimately, the creative rewards for Kagan are "being able to observe something and reproduce it as faithfully as possible and as honestly as possible. I don’t want to romanticize things, yet I want to convey the emotion, the tone of the moment as much as possible and not misrepresent what we see."

Morris Kagan’s "A Life of Photography" has its opening reception on Thurs., Feb. 22, from 5 p.m.-7 p.m, at the Consulate General of Germany. The exhibit runs through April 5. For more information, call (323) 930-2703.

Thanks for the Memories


Imagine having a career where you killed time by palling around with Bob Hope, photographing Marilyn Monroe, enjoying a beverage at Marlon Brando’s Hollywood Hills home. Murray Garrett had that career.Until his retirement in 1972, Garrett specialized as a freelance Hollywood photographer, tackling assignments for Life and Look. Along the way, Garrett found himself privy to magical moments millions of America’s stargazers could only read about in magazines. Garrett, 74, has compiled 150 of his best black-and-whites for “Hollywood Candid, A Photographer Remembers” (Abrams).

Garrett’s story starts out like that of many a Jew of his generation. He grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the son of Russian Jewish parents, and attended Tilden High. But his story took a sharp turn the day the young photog arrived in L.A. to oversee a photo studio. The rest, to paraphrase an old cliché, is visual history.

For decades, Garrett worked as Hope’s official photographer, gamely traveling the world. Said Garrett, “He knew from bad times. He knew he was blessed.”

Hope leads a roster of comedians filling the “Comics” section of “Hollywood Candid,” which features a shot of Lou Costello wearing a Mickey Mouse Club life preserver, being dragged into the Dunes Hotel pool by a showgirl. The picture is priceless yet poignant, considering how the comic lost his only son to a swimming pool accident.

Garrett’s book is loaded with starlets such as Natalie Wood, whom the photographer enviably captured at her Sinatra-thrown 21st birthday party. That assignment would prove bittersweet for Garrett, who remembers a banner teasing Wood for her prelegal partying; chilling in light of the alcohol-related circumstances surrounding her 1981 drowning death.

According to Garrett, Humphrey Bogart was gruff but likable, and Frank Sinatra and Yul Brynner were paradoxical personalities – alternately warm and cold. As for Brando, Garrett was warned about what a real S.O.B. the actor could be. When Garrett visited his Benedict Canyon home for Time magazine, Brando, in fact, was very hospitable and gave Garrett some of the best pix of his career. The lighthearted shots capture a post-“The Wild One” Brando in peak physical form, relaxing with his cat and listening to records on his record player (the latter a picture Tommy Tune wanted to buy).

Despite his Hollywood adventures, Garrett’s dream gig would have been as official White House photographer. Occasionally, he did sneak a sip of that ambrosia, snapping Truman, Kennedy and Nixon. But with pictures of Liz Taylor in London’s National Portrait Gallery, Garrett has done all right as a chronicler of Hollywood’s golden years. He held a mirror to a time when Bogey called the shots; when Brando was a fascinating enigma; when Wood’s preternatural beauty was still with us. Garrett was there with his Roloflex and a sharp eye. Thanks to him, we were there, too.

Murray Garrett’s work will show at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum through Nov. 25. For information, contact the Museum at (323) 465-7900.

Capturing Life’s Inner Journey On Film


“Those who say the body and soul are different have neither.” – Oscar Wilde

In the new book “The Soul Aflame” (Conari Press/Raincoast Books), Eric Lawton’s latest collection of photographs, with text by Phil Cousineau, the introduction evokes the age-old enigma of where the soul resides. While Aztecs and Mayans believe the vital spark was in the blood, Cousineau’s text explains, the Dayaks of Borneo and the ancient Celts regarded the soul as being in the head, while the ancient Egyptians thought the soul lay in the tongue, and the classical Greeks were convinced the soul hovered in the joints of the body. Still other cultures targeted the spinal marrow,seminal fluid, brain, hair and nails.

But judging from “The Soul Aflame,” Lawton believes it resides somewhere in the eye. Not in the cornea or the pupil, but in the iris of his camera.

A student of photography since his UCLA days, Lawton served on the 1984 Olympics Cultural and Fine Arts Advisory Commission for the Olympic Arts Festival. He has produced multimedia montages with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and has collaborated with artists such as the Doors’John Densmore. Most recently, his work was exhibited at the Consulate General of Israel’s Israeli Independence celebration at Bergamot Station.

Back in the late 1970s, Lawton abandoned a burgeoning law career to travel the world and capture it on film. Lawton has collaborated with Cousineau – who had worked with Joseph Campbell on a documentary called “The Hero’s Journal” – since their days circulating in the writers’ and artists’ circles of San Francisco’s North Beach.

“We struck up a conversation that’s been going on for 15 years,” Lawton says.

Their first book, “The Soul of the World” (HarperCollins), came out in 1993 and visually addressed great traditional landscapes from around the globe. Their latest, “Soul Aflame,” takes the opposite tack.”It’s an inward journey,” says Lawton, who adds that both books hearken back to the medieval “illuminated manuscripts where there’s an inspirational painting on one side with a passage of text on the other.”And what strange bedfellows the authors quoted in “Soul Aflame” – words of wisdom, flanking the exotic photographs, include Martin Luther King Jr., Woody Allen, IngmarBergman, Aretha Franklin, and Percy Shelley.

The images are striking. Culled from Lawton’s many journeys to Asia and the Middle East, they literally are all over the map, presenting meditations of the soul: a Burmese woman kneeling with clasped hands, speaking to her god; a serene boat ride across a blue Chinese landscape; a portrait of a boy from Guanajuato in military garb, his eyes pensive; a time-worn visage of an old Asian man; a shot of a religious Jew against the vast, tie-dyed Judean Desert sky.Weaned on the images of Life photographer W. Eugene Smith and Alfred Stieglitz, Lawton is equally moved by the Campbellian notion of “going out into the world, finding some wisdom, and bringing back the experience. Part of going out in the world is bringing things back in.”

These days, Lawton doesn’t travel as much. He divides his time between working at the Century City-based law firm Mahoney, Coppenrath & Jaffe, and enjoying life with his wife,Gail, and their young daughters, Rebecca and Alexandra.

And he is pleased that his children are picking up paintbrushes and starting to findtheir artistic voices. He calls this “transmission from the elders to the children” – a recurring theme in his life and his work, the “ultimate joy.”

Eric Lawton will sign “The Soul Aflame” at Barnes & Noble, 13400 Maxella, Marina del Rey, on Thurs.

‘Forward’ Thinking


Like many a success story, it all started as a joke.

Dave Golding, a major Hollywood publicist, asked neophyte photographer Phil Stern to document the filming of “Guys and Dolls.” As a favor to his father, who worked on The Forward, Golding asked Stern to photograph Marlon Brando reading a copy of the Yiddish-language paper.

What began as a lark became a three-decade obsession for Stern, who always kept a copy of the newspaper handy and ready for any opportunity to stage a shot of an unlikely celebrity reader. A batch from The Forward series is currently on display at the Workman’s Circle.

“That [group of photos] was a departure,” says Stern, 79, who started out as a combat photog in World War II. “My work gave me access to these people. They are all the most improbable pairings: Spencer Tracy…Alfred Hitchcock reading the Daily Forward. They are all…choreographed from an evil-minded photographer.”

Over the years, Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Simmons and James Garner all followed suit. Stern was often surprised at the willingness of many stars to pose with the paper.

“People like Sinatra, who normally would not do it…he was delighted; he jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

Hanging out on the sets of movies, Stern frequently befriended the stars he stalked with his 35mm. He playfully referred to Kirk Douglas as “Kirkala” and remembers a time, on the Yugoslav location for “The Light at the Edge of the World,” when he won over star Yul Brynner with a knapsack filled with mussels.

“I love mussels, and so did he,” says Stern. “I went to a market and brought back a knapsack [filled with] mussels, and [Brynner] had a big trailer with a kitchen in it…. He cooked up mussels with the wine sauce and the dip [etc.], all made from scratch. It was a gourmet tour de force.”

These days, Stern spends most of his time snapping pictures of his grandchildren. He finds today’s entertainment culture alien to his sensibilities, and although he recognizes and admires talents such as Jerry Seinfeld and Robert De Niro, he does not lament missing his chance to photograph them. Instead, says Stern, “I’m recycling my youth,” referring to the archives of his past photography he is in the process of cataloging. Since retreating from Hollywood’s front lines in 1983, Stern and his vintage material have been in hot demand, particularly images he took of Hollywood martyrs Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

Says Stern, “I get queried almost every day.”

Proof positive (or, in his case, negative) appears in a recent New Yorker, which featured one of his Marilyns. The current Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair also boasts a Stern classic — Sammy Davis Jr. and Kim Novak.

Unlike Dean and Brando, Stern never got to know the former Norma Jean Baker, but is proud of his extensive professional relationship with the legendary sex symbol. “I don’t say that in the sense of arrogance in any way; I have a track record…magazine covers, posters.”

Phil Stern will appear at The Workmen’s Circle on Friday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. Also at the event, the film, “The Jewish Daily Forward: From Immigrants to Americans,” will be screened. Call (310) 552-2007 — Michael Aushenker, Community Editor


Images of Israel


Robert Cumins was working on the staff of his junior high school paper in Fair Lawn, N.J., when he had his first scoop.

He sent a note to Pierre Salinger, then press secretary to President Kennedy, asking for an interview. Salinger invited Cumins to the White House, where the 14-year-old attended presidential press conferences and welcoming ceremonies with visiting dignitaries.

Cumins’ stories not only ran in his school paper, but the tale of the chutzpadik teen who wangled his way into the White House was also picked up by his hometown newspaper and The Associated Press. It was Cumins’ launch into the national — and, eventually, international — scene.

He became a professional photojournalist whose work has been featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek and in magazines and newspapers around the globe. Starting with the Camp David Accords, Cumins has photographed every major peace summit and signing involving Israel, including the famous four-second handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1993.

Beginning with a trip to Israel in 1973, Cumins has visited the Jewish state more than 100 times.

Ten of Cumins’ pictures, along with the work by five other well-known photographers (such as Journal photographers Shlomit Levy, Bill Aron and Jill Lichtenstein) and 47 local photographers, are included in “Images of Israel: A Photographic Perspective of Israel at 50 Years,” an exhibition that opens this weekend at Christie’s Los Angeles. All photos are for sale, with 25 percent of the proceeds going to benefit the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ United Jewish Fund. The Federation is sponsoring the show.

“Images of Israel” will be on view from Dec. 13 to 17. Gallery hours are from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Christie’s is located at 360 N. Camden Drive in Beverly Hills. For information, or to arrange tours, call the Federation at (323) 761-8122.