I am my family : photographic memories and fictions /
Rafael Goldchain ; with an essay by Martha Langford.
1st ed.
New York, N.Y. : Princeton Architectural Press, c2008.
168 p.
1568987382 (alk. paper), 9781568987385 (alk. paper)
More Details
added author
New York, N.Y. : Princeton Architectural Press, c2008.
1568987382 (alk. paper)
9781568987385 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2008-09-01:
Photographer Goldchain describes his family history as one "defined by exile"--many of his Polish-Jewish ancestors immigrated to North and South America; most of those who stayed in Europe perished in the Holocaust. The photographer conceived this "family album" as a means of rebuilding his "self-identity through affiliation with Polish-born ancestors and East European Jewry." Working with reminiscences from elderly relatives, old photographs, his own memories and imagination, he has created a series of formal studio portraits in which he--with the help of makeup, elaborate costuming and digital retouching--poses as his relatives from the 19th century on. While a few images have the look of amateur theatrics, most of the images are deeply affecting; Goldchain summons up youth, age, heartbreak and hope, and his features, the one constant, reappear in every photograph to suggest family resemblance and continuity. Accompanying narratives lend an almost novelistic depth to the series of photographs, and an appendix that includes production stills, his jottings and pages of vintage family snapshots rounds out this fascinating, commemorative project. 56 duotone and 72 b&w illustrations. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, September 2008
Globe & Mail, October 2008
Globe & Mail, November 2008
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Bowker Data Service Summary
Rafael Goldchain's 'I Am My Family' is a family album of traditional portrait photographs with an unconventional twist - the only subject is Goldchain himself. In an elaborate process involving genealogical research, the use of make-up, hair styling, costume, and props, Goldchain transforms himself into his ancestors.
Main Description
Through decades of war (World War II) and immigration, much of memorabilia that Americans take for granted-family photographs particularly, but also the objects that give coherence to one's personal history-were lost to Chilean photographer Rafael Goldchain. Never overly interested in his family's past, Goldchain turned to his roots when his son was born, and he wanted to provide him with the opportunity to connect to his cultural heritage. Realizing that he didn't know much about his grandparents, let alone great-grandparents and other ancestors, Goldchain began collecting facts and stories about his extended family, which originated in a small town in Poland, from which many family members emigrated to South America before World War II. Others perished in Poland during the Nazi regime. Goldchain soon felt it was his duty to ensure that the lives of his ancestors weren't forgotten and decided to create a fictional family photo album by transforming himself into his ancestors through the use of make-up and costume, and recording the result on film. Because of the lack of available information, he also began adding fictional characters that could have been a part of his family, basing images on period photographs. The resulting series of self-portraits-asancestors shows a surprising range of characters: From his short-story-writing grandfather, to the Rabbi Gur's Nephew in wedding dress, to his great-aunts Pola and Fela, Goldchain reinvents himself over and over again. The photographs in this book are not only astounding records of Goldchain's photographic talent and his elaborate process of research and attention to detail in his impersonifications, but also an act of remembrance. The reader can't help and wonder about the fate of these people, and hope the best for them, even though they lived long in the past.
Main Description
Old family photo albums are fascinating. If you're lucky enough to own one, you've probably spent hours poring over half-faded black-and-white portraits of your ancestors, searching for similarities in their facial features and wondering what their lives might have been. Unfortunately, not every family has such easy access to their own history. Photographer Rafael Goldchain's Polish-Jewish ancestors emigrated to South America in the 1930s, and many others perished in Poland during the Nazi regime. Also lost in the turmoil of war and emigration were most of the portraits of his extended family. When Goldchain became a parent himself, he decided to make up for this lack of evidence and recreate the lost generations of the past, in the present. Rafael Goldchain's I Am My Family is a family album of traditional portrait photographs with an unconventional twist: the only subject is Goldchain himself. In an elaborate process involving genealogical research, the use of makeup, hair styling, costume, and props, Goldchain transforms himself into his ancestors and captures their personifications with the camera. Taking some liberties with historical accuracy, Goldchain has assembled a fascinating cast of characters: from his short-story-writing grandfather, to his great-aunts Pola and Fela, to the Rabbi Gur's nephew in wedding dress, Goldchain reinvents himself over and over again. These beautifully reproduced self-portraits trace the evolution of Jewish culture from tradition to modernity and invite us to engage the history of a family decimated and scattered by the traumatic events of the 20th century. Featuring an insightful essay by curator Martha Langford, the portraits are complemented by a selection of the archival images on which they are based as well as selections from the artist's handwritten sketchbooks.

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