About fifteen years ago, I started researching my family’s genealogy. After a while I had amassed a reasonably large number of images of people from the “old country,” in my family’s case Russia, Poland, and Lithuania. This collection is haunting. There are all these people, now gone, who once had dreams and many of whom were murdered during the Second World War. Finally you realize two things: first that as Edward R. Murrow said: “We are not descended from fearful men;” and second that we are their dreams. These are significant lessons, because they teach us how we ourselves must live if we are to be true to them.
Often over the years I have found myself studying these images and looking for the resemblance. As I have gotten older, I certainly see my father’s face in the mirror. But what about the face of his Uncle Jack or that of my great grandfather?
Photographer Rafael Goldchain has taken the quest for family resemblance a step further. He has duplicated family photographs, real or imagined, all with himself as ancestor. The result is a remarkable set of self-portraits, portraits not quite right as they dwell somewhere in the middle, somewhere between the past and the present. This creates a haunting effect and tension, which define these images. And despite your knowledge of the creative reality, epitaphs like: “b. Warsaw, Poland 1890’s, d. Poland, early 1940’s” still cut deep as. The realization of murder and snuffed out dreams haunts us.
Right now these wonderful pictures can be found in three places: Lenswork Extended #101, if you subscribe to that, at the ZoneZero.com website; and in Mr. Goldchain’s book, “I am My Family.” Check them out!