Making a Home in Poland: The Jewish Sightseeing Movement and Its Photographic Practices
Our paper focused on the photographic practices the Poland-based Jewish sightseeing movement employed between the two World Wars, to promote Jewish cultural identity and Poland as a home for the Jewish people. Founded in 1923, the Jewish sightseeing movement wished to expose the Jews of Poland to the country's diverse landscapes, encourage Jewish tourism in the land, and create archives of local Jewish cultural heritage with a view to investigating what Jewish culture might be in the context of European nation building. While other early twentieth-century Jewish organizations dreamt about the establishment of a Jewish nation-state elsewhere, the Jews who were involved with the Jewish sightseeing movement considered Poland as a home, and the Poles as their neighbors. To achieve their goals, members of the movement organized a large number of photographic activities, including photography courses and exhibitions, as well as photographic excursions to different regions in Poland. In addition, they published various scientific as well as more popular journals, in which movement members printed some of the photographs they captured in the country, alongside informative articles about photographic strategies that anyone with a camera could have employed to contribute to the movement's sociocultural and national aspirations. The Jewish sightseeing movement ceased to exist as soon as Poland was invaded by Germany in 1939. Its members subsequently either escaped from the country or shared the fate of the majority of Polish Jews. While, as a consequence, the Jewish sightseeing movement never fulfilled its goals, it left behind literature and photographic records that could be used to elaborate studies of Jewish history as well as expand the scope of the study of photographic history. On the one hand, the study of the movement's photographic practices can help elaborate on the complex historical relationship of Jews and the Polish country. On the other hand, it gives photographic historians an insight into early twentieth-century understandings of the relationship between photography and nation building, understandings which those European nations who felt secure in their homelands had taken for granted.
We delivered this paper at the conference 'Discovering “Peripheries”: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe'. Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland, 31 May - 1 June 2016 (organised by Society “Liber pro arte” in collaboration with the Polish Association of Photography Historians and the peer-reviewed journal “Dagerotyp”).
Citation : Pasternak, G. and Ziętkiewicz, M. (2016) Making a Home in Poland: The Jewish Sightseeing Movement and Its Photographic Practices. Lecture in: Discovering “Peripheries”: Photographic Histories in Central and Eastern Europe. International conference at the Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland, Warsaw, 31 May - 1 June 2016
Research Group : Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC)
Research Institute : Media Discourse Centre (MDC)
- School of Humanities 
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