Identity, Future and Belonging

 

Guests at an orthodox wedding ceremony, Garnethill synagogue, Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Guests at an orthodox wedding ceremony, Garnethill synagogue, Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

 

Published some years ago by the World Jewish Congress, Jewish Communities of the World is a slim anthology providing a snapshot of the history of Jewish people in each country of the world at the end of the 20th century. In dates and numbers, it lists how many Jews are living in their respective countries and details how many have ‘made aliyah’ or in other words emigrated to the state of Israel. Tucked away in a sub-section chronicling the United Kingdom, mention is made of the small, but thriving, Jewish community of Scotland, one whose roots stretch back to the late 18th century, many of whom have played significant roles in Scottish life in the intervening two centuries.

Jewish  analytical chemist at a whisky distillery, Fife. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Jewish analytical chemist at a whisky distillery, Fife. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

 

Scotland’s Jews have never been the most visible of the country’s immigrant communities, yet their contribution to public life has been immense. From the legal profession to artists, politicians and even distillers and salmon farmers, Jewish people have contributed to and enriched Scotland’s story since the first Jews settled in Edinburgh over two hundred years ago. It is against this backdrop that Glasgow-born writer Michael Mail created a project entitled Tartan Arts which recognises and celebrates the story of the Scottish Jewish community, and which commissioned a study of contemporary Jewish life in Scotland by award-winning documentary photographer Judah Passow. Shot throughout 2013 in locations from Shetland to the Borders, the result is a superb book and an exhibition entitled Scots Jews – Identity, Future and Belonging which is currently touring Scotland and being simultaneously shown at various venues across the USA.

As Michael Mail explains: “I was looking for a way to recognise and celebrate the story of the remarkable, yet little known, Scottish Jewish community. When I came across Judah Passow’s photography, I immediately realised that he had the skill, sensitivity and artistry to take on this subject and create a truly memorable piece of work, which is precisely what Judah has achieved with Scots Jews.”

The Rabbi of Edinburgh’s Liberal congregation. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

The Rabbi of Edinburgh’s Liberal congregation. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

 

Passow’s work gets to the heart of the community; we see social occasions such as weddings and Burns Night celebrations and depictions of prominent people and ordinary working environments. Passow’s ability to capture the mood of the subject is enhanced by the use of monochrome imagery. We feel the history, yet the setting is contemporary. The people, places and ceremonies look familiar, but with a particular, subtle twist which informs us that we are outsiders looking in. It is a warm, compassionate and at times humorous study of a community in Scotland at ease with itself, its identity and its surroundings. As Judah Passow himself notes: “This project has been a real voyage of discovery across the spiritual and cultural landscape of Scotland. One of its more remarkable features is the warm, proud Jewish community that has become so tightly woven into the national fabric. I hope people looking at these photographs will see what I saw – a people deeply devoted to their heritage both as Jews and Scots.”

Burns Night at the L’Chaim kosher restaurant in Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Burns Night at the L’Chaim kosher restaurant in Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

 

The exhibition is currently on show at Aberdeen Central Library until December before it comes to Street Level Photoworks for an eagerly-anticipated run at the Glasgow venue in the new year. Gallery director Malcolm Dickson, who was involved in advising Michael Mail about the project, is in no doubt about the importance of Passow’s work: “I have always liked Judah’s work as a photojournalist; Scots Jews proposes a narrative and display that will appeal to a wide range of people. Importantly, it tells a moving story of Jewish everyday life in the Scottish landscape, and how deeply embedded they are in the twin dualities of their identities, as Scots, and as Jews. The prospect of the project linking up regional venues added further appeal to its reach.”

Jewish and Muslim pupils studying the Torah together in a religious education class at Calderwood Lodge Primary School. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Jewish and Muslim pupils studying the Torah together in a religious education class at Calderwood Lodge Primary School. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

 

Scotland’s Jews may be regarded as a somewhat subliminal community, happy to get on with their lives and play their part away from the public glare. This long-overdue book and accompanying exhibition shines a light on them and brings them to the fore and we as a society are richer for it.

 

 

 

 

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New Talent…

Over the last few months here at Document Scotland we have been pretty busy, however, we always make time to see new work. Here we take a look at some of the work by graduates from Edinburgh Napier University 2014 which was on show earlier this year in their degree show and also at Free Range in London.

Here is a taster of some of their work which caught our eye… do take a look at their individual websites for further images.

 

Glasgow Mods by Lisa Boyd

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From the series ‘Mods’ by Lisa Boyd, image © Lisa Boyd, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

“This project is about the Mod subculture in Glasgow, focusing on original and long time members. I have always been interested in people and their uniqueness. My father was an old mod and seeing the mod subculture re-emerging was my main inspiration to do this project.  Several recent photographic projects have focused on the younger mod generation. I was interested in telling the story of the originals for whom being a mod has always been a part of their life. I started researching the subculture and going to a few mod events and club nights. These portraits were taken outside the ‘Tailor Made’ (previously ‘Friday Street’) club night round at the smoking area. I really enjoyed the time I spent doing these portraits. Speaking with the mods I heard some great stories and learned a lot about the subculture. After finishing this portrait project I am still photographing the mods. I am focusing on the different aspects of the subculture, in the end I hope to have a comprehensive body of work documenting the subculture from all perspectives.”

Lisa Boyd www.lisaboydphotography.com

 

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From the series ‘Mods’ by Lisa Boyd, image © Lisa Boyd, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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From the series ‘Mods’ by Lisa Boyd, image © Lisa Boyd, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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From the series ‘Mods’ by Lisa Boyd, image © Lisa Boyd, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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From the series ‘Mods’ by Lisa Boyd, image © Lisa Boyd, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Lolitas by Louise Anne Kennedy

Tina, a Gothic Lolita, From the series 'Lolitas' by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

Tina, a Gothic Lolita, From the series ‘Lolitas’ by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

“A Lolita could be best described as an individual who follows the Japanese subculture of wearing western inspired Victorian and Rocco style Japanese fashion. The history of the movement began in Japan during the 1970’s, with fashion companies such as Pink House, Milk and Pretty. Although Lolita is fairly unknown, this fashion subculture has become a growing trend among young women in Scotland. Lolita has dominated Japan for many years it has only been in the last decade that it has spread to many other countries in the world.

I am passionate about people and culture; I love to learn about new cultures and peoples stories. The inspiration for the project came from a long love of Japan and Japanese culture, I have an unexplored fascination with Japan and I created this project in order to find Japan and aspects of its culture in my home country.
The difficulty in finding such a secretive subculture is in gaining the access required in which to meet, learn about and photograph the girls who wear Lolita. My love of Japan and Japanese culture gave me a connection with the girls and slowly they allowed me into their world. Most Lolita’s enjoy being photographed; they like to show off their immaculately co-ordinated outfits.”

Louise Kennedy www.louiseannekennedyphotography.com

Rachel, 'Classic Lolita' From the series 'Lolitas' by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

Rachel, ‘Classic Lolita’ From the series ‘Lolitas’ by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Ruth, 'Sweet Lolita' From the series 'Lolitas' by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

Ruth, ‘Sweet Lolita’ From the series ‘Lolitas’ by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

A detail in "Sweet Lolita" Ruth's bedroom. From the series 'Lolitas' by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

A detail in “Sweet Lolita” Ruth’s bedroom. From the series ‘Lolitas’ by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

A Classic Lolita wears tights detailed to look like a doll's knee. From the series 'Lolitas' by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

A Classic Lolita wears tights detailed to look like a doll’s knee. From the series ‘Lolitas’ by Louise Kennedy. © Louise Kennedy, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Gorgie Road – The Maroon West by James Parker

From the series 'Gorgie - The Maroon West' by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

From the series ‘Gorgie – The Maroon West’ by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

“Situated between Edinburgh’s city prison and the financial sector, resides Gorgie. The densely inhabited area has one of the highest populations per square mile within the country. Historically it contained the largest pig farm in Scotland, with local residents claiming that the creation of the digestive biscuit hails from the area.

This project views the social network of people and place along the main western artery into Edinburgh city life and the chance encounters along the route.

Since completing the project and graduating from Napier, I currently work as a summer school photography teacher at Queens College, Cambridge. I intend to use images from the project towards my submission for several MA courses. However, for the time being I am based back in South Yorkshire and will begin work on several fresh longer-term projects, collaborations and commissioned work soon.”

The entire project with 30 images is available in a newspaper format here.

Limited Edition –  £20
One Project
One C-Print of choice from the series
Protective cardboard sleeve.

James Parker www.jameschrisparker.com

From the series 'Gorgie - The Maroon West' by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

From the series ‘Gorgie – The Maroon West’ by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

From the series 'Gorgie - The Maroon West' by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

From the series ‘Gorgie – The Maroon West’ by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

From the series 'Gorgie - The Maroon West' by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

From the series ‘Gorgie – The Maroon West’ by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

From the series 'Gorgie - The Maroon West' by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

From the series ‘Gorgie – The Maroon West’ by James Parker. © James Parker, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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