Meah Shearim photograph of Torah scholars. Rabbis in Jerusalem. Photo of Hungarian quarter.
Frédéric Brenner (born 1959) is a French photographer known for his documentation of Jewish communities around the world. His work has been exhibited internationally, among others, at the International Center of Photography in New York, the Musée de l'Élysée in Lausanne, Rencontres d'Arles in Arles, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and the Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam.
Brenner was born in Paris and grew up in France. In 1981, Brenner received a B.A. in French Literature and Social Anthropology from the Paris-Sorbonne University. He went on to study at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and received a M.A. in Social Anthropology, also awarded by the Sorbonne.
Brenner is the recipient of the Niépce Prize and his book Diaspora: Homelands in Exile won the 2004 Visual Arts Award from the Jewish Book Council.
At age 19, Brenner began photographing Orthodox Jews in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. Initially, he believed this was "authentic Judaism," but his approach quickly evolved into an exploration of the multiplicities of dissonant identities.
In 1981, Brenner began photographing Jewish communities around the world, exploring what it means to live and survive with a portable identity and how Jews adopted the traditions and manners of their home countries and yet remained part of the Jewish people. He spent 25 years chronicling the diaspora of the Jews across the world from Rome to New York, India to Yemen, Morocco to Ethiopia, Sarajevo to Samarkand. Brenner has published five books and directed three films. His work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world. He has been represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York since 1990.
Brenner’s opus Diaspora: Homelands in Exile was published as a two-volume set of photographs and texts by HarperCollins in 2003 and appeared in four foreign editions. Diaspora was also a major exhibition, which opened in New York at the Brooklyn Museum in 2003 and traveled to nine other cities in America, Europe and Mexico. In reviewing the book, The New Yorker wrote: “Brenner's work—elegiac, celebratory, irreverent—transcends portraiture, representing instead a prolonged, open-ended inquiry into the nature of identity and heritage.” NPR's Robert Siegel has described Brenner's work as "a celebration of the diversity and complexity of diaspora."
In 2006, Brenner founded This Place, a collective photography project aimed at recontextualizing Israel from multiple perspectives. The photographers working on this project include Wendy Ewald, Martin Kollar, Josef Koudelka, Jungjin Lee, Gilles Peress, Fazal Sheikh, Stephen Shore, Rosalind Solomon, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, and Nick Waplington. This Place will be exhibited internationally, beginning at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague in the fall of 2014.
Jerusalem, Instants d'Eternité. Paris: Éditions Denoël, 1984.
Israel. New York: HarperCollins; London: Collins Harville, 1988. With texts by A. B. Yehoshua
Marranes. Paris: Editions de la Différence, 1992. With an essay by Y.H. Yerushalmi.
Jews/America/A Representation. New York: Abrams Books, 1996. With an essay by Simon Schama.
Exile at Home. New York: Abrams Books, 1998. With a poem by Yehuda Amichai.
Diaspora: Homelands in Exile. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
An Archeology of Fear and Desire. London: Mack, 2014.
1991, Les derniers Marranes (The Last Marranos), with Stan Neumann, produced by Les Films d’Ici, distributed by Europe Images International.
2003, Tykocin, with Jérôme de Missolz, ZKO Films.
2003, Madres de Desaparecidos, ZKO Films.
Musée Nicéphore-Niépce, Chalon-sur-Saône, France
Consejo Mexicano de Photographias, Bellas Artes, Mexico City
Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam
International Center of Photography, New York
Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne
Rencontres d'Arles, Arles
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Brooklyn Museum, New York
United Nations, New York
About Frédéric Brenner
Since 1978, anthropologist and photographer Frédéric Brenner has been exploring Jewish identity, chronicling the people and places of the Jewish Diaspora, and focusing on Israel’s complex topography. For his first project, he traveled to the ultra-orthodox enclave of Mea She’arim to photograph this transplantation of shtetl life to the Middle East. In 1981, he embarked upon his career-defining work, a 25-year journey around the world, documenting the Jewish Diaspora in the late 20th century. Of this project, he states: “I came out of it with a lot more questions than answers. Through it a sense of paradox was born in me.” Paradox and questioning led Brenner to This Place (begun 2007), an ambitious endeavor, for which he brought together a group of world-renowned photographers, including Jeff Wall and Josef Koudelka, to produce a more nuanced portrait of Israel.
French, b. 1959