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Capturing Corpses: The Advent of Photography and Depicting Jewish Death

Thursday, April 4, 2024 25 Adar II 5784

7:30 PM - 8:30 PMASBI Social Hall

Photography and death have had a significant relation ever since the invention of the technology in the mid 19 th century. Post-mortem photography was used to construct the “good death” for Christians in the Victorian era and served as a tool for memory. Within Jewish history, however, photography of the dead has mostly meant to signify Jewish suffering. Sadly this has become even more salient in the wake of October 7th. In some cases the act of photographing the Jewish dead body itself has been a form of violence, working to construct the Jewish “bad death.”

Although death photography serves a purpose – it can inform the viewer of something significant and even incite moral outrage and action – we should ask what story these photographs construct. Photography of Jewish corpses often tell a narrow story of a bad death or even create that bad death itself. We should consider turning to other images of Jewish death that can tell a more complete story of relationality, community, and care in the face of death.

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Sun, April 21 2024 13 Nisan 5784