The Jews of Greece by Morrie Camhi
I miss Morrie more than I can express. He was more than a friend — he was one of the important spiritual mentors in the beginning days of LensWork. His book The Jews of Greece had just been published and I asked him if I could interview him about the work. He agreed. I turned on the recorder and we sat down with his book. He flipped from page to page, telling a little story about each of the photographs I'd marked. His emotions were so genuine, his experiences so heartfelt that his stories needed not one word of editing. Here are Morrie's comments about the above photograph.
Serina had just been shopping and I wanted to photograph her in her room. But, like so many older Jewish women who are alone, she was very, very poor. The room she could afford was barely big enough to house a single bed. There was clothing packed along one side of the bed. On the other side was a foot or a maybe foot-and-a-half where she could lie down. There wasn't enough room to make photographs in her apartment. There wasn't enough room anywhere else. The building itself was old and in poor repair and this, no doubt, was part of what kept the rent low and affordable. And so, it seemed to me that the best place to photograph Serina was not in her room where I had originally intended, but in the hallway that seemed neutral, yet old, needing attention and not getting it – just as Serina herself needed attention and didn't get it until the camera came around.
It was impossible to get any expression from her but the one she collaborated to have in this photograph – this was the one expression she would give me. Later on, she explained why she was so serious in the photograph. She said, "I want life to be remembered in this serious way. This is a very serious moment for me. I cannot remember having been photographed before." I'm sure she'd been photographed when she was a child, but then she didn't say that she hadn't been photographed – just that she couldn't remember being photographed. So, I am glad that something was contributed to Serina feeling important and her sober – almost grim – presentation made this an important photograph for me. We gave to each other.
What a wonderful photographer he was. What a wonderful man he was.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to full-access members of LensWork Online.
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