Beyond the Forest
Beyond the Forest: Jewish Presence in Eastern Europe, 2004-2012 by Loli Kantor. (University of Texas Press, 200 pp. $60)
Although both her parents were Holocaust survivors, photographer Loli Kantor knew very little about that terrible time. In 2004, she began an odyssey in Poland and Ukraine (her parents were from different areas of Poland) that was not immediately personal. Her resulting photo album shows a progression of her observations.
On her first trip, Kantor participated in restoration work at a former concentration camp, and her images are black and white—train tracks, a foggy train window, a snow-covered road in a forest, an empty courtyard leading to her family’s home in Czestochowa, a portrait of a woman with an old family picture. The photos reflect the grimness of the past, the paths the victims took to their death. By 2008, her pictures are in color and include more people—a young woman and her baby, children rehearsing to perform at a retirement home, a table spread with platters of food.
Yet, even the later images convey material hardship: Indoors, people are wearing sweaters, jackets, hats and scarves; most people are older and unsmiling. Bookshelves display family portraits. Are those family members who were torn away, never to return? The men and women captured in this book may be the true survivors—of the Nazis, of the communists, of losses they still bear.