Where one grows up is like a lottery. As a young student surrounded by other kids from the same cookie cutter suburb on Long Island, I wondered how cultural, national and local identity shapes who we are, and if our environment compelled us to become — to be — a certain way.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to travel from Moscow to Lithuania and spend a few days in the villages where my ancestors once lived. Afterwards, I began to retrace in earnest the origins and subsequent movements of my family. I began to imagine the “what ifs,” both as a photographer (a kind of outsider) and as a Grinker. What if my great-grandfather had stayed in Lithuania? What if he had found his way to Ukraine, or South Africa or Palestine instead of the United States? Who would I be now?
With medium format color film, this story of diaspora is told with landscapes, still life details and portraits. Taken together, the photographs represent my search to understand the journey taken by this Jewish family over the past 125 years. With photographs, interviews, archival material, and text written by cultural anthropologist, Roy Richard Grinker, PhD, this very intimate, yet ultimately universal work, reflects many of the key aspects of diaspora.
Roy Richard Grinker, writes:
Lori Grinker focuses more on particular environments than people and practices. Paradoxically, however, the photographs, many without people or faces, challenge us to imagine. Who are the people who made these worlds? And how does someone experience a life through them? There is, in these captivating images, what might be called either a present absence or an absent presence. We are compelled to look beyond the shreds and patches that comprise our memories, like letters and photographs, to the unseen. These images, and the people and places they represent, are fragmentary, perhaps like the Jews themselves, but they cohere around their incompleteness and instability, characteristics that are the essence of diaspora.