“Photography has almost a genetic appeal to the Jewish mind, the universal Jewish culture.”
– Howard Greenberg, Gallerist

Descendants of Light: American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry
by Penny Wolin
Essay by Alan Trachtenberg, Yale University
Crazy Woman Creek Press, Cheyenne, Wyoming © 2016

Why are there so many Jews in Photography?

When certain images come to mind that both capture and create our cultural history— photographs of Albert Einstein (Philippe Halsman), Elizabeth Taylor (Herb Ritts), a final embrace of John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Annie Leibovitz) or a refugee’s view of the American dream (Robert Frank)—we may not have known that photographers of Jewish ancestry have frequently made the enduring iconic photographs of our time.

For over eight years photographer and author Penny Wolin traveled relentlessly across America, photographing and interviewing more than 70 of the leading and most original Jewish photographers in history. This book is the culmination of these unprecedented face-to-face encounters.

Descendants of Light: American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry is an illuminating work of art and scholarship. Wolin has collected rare historic ancestral photographs from each artist, many unseen images from their bodies of work, and created her own unique photographic portraits of each subject. Her personal connection with each photographer, or with close family members if deceased, reveals candid, sometimes controversial conversations, telling a multi-generational story of the intersection between American Jewish culture, modern America and the art of photography.

Alan Trachtenberg is Neil Grey Emeritus Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University. Among his books is Reading American Photographs: Images as History (1989).

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