‘Captured in Memory’ photo exhibit opens at Emanu-El on April 3

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Alan MetnickAlan Metnick

Captured in Memory: An Exhibition, will open at Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, on April 3. “Captured in Memory,” a book of photographs and commentary by artist and photographer Alan Metnick, will also have its U.S. debut at the temple on April 3.

Both the exhibition and the book use black-and-white photography to tackle big themes that are important to Jews: history, identity, the Shoah and the possibility of transformation. On April 3, the community is invited to Emanu-El to experience both the exhibition and the book.

The powerful, sharply rendered photographs that will fill the walls of the temple’s Bohnen Vestry were shot during Metnick’s many trips to Poland between 2004 and 2016, trips that focused especially on Slawatycze, the village of his grandparents. During each of these trips, Metnick explored his family’s history, as well as the Jewish experience in Poland and beyond in light of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. The powerful photos selected for “Captured in Memory” tell the story of Metnick’s initially negative attitude toward Poland and its transformation into a more balanced and nuanced view.

“With each visit to Poland, I experience more and more pushback against stereotyping, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.  Do I encounter anti-Semitism on these visits? Yes, occasionally. But among the 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds that I am involved with, there are individuals who, on their own, are working to right these wrongs of the past,” Metnick said in an interview.

“All by themselves, they are doing things like restoring and maintaining Jewish cemeteries. They have the same spirit of mission and action that I felt among those who went to Selma, Alabama, in the ’60s.”

In the 180-page “Captured in Memory,” Metnick has 61 photographs from his Polish travels that tell the story of little-known villages as well as frightfully familiar sites like Auschwitz; ordinary buildings; desolate fields; the remnants of abandoned cemeteries; and ordinary Poles standing together, as if to face a different future.

Captured in Memory: The Exhibition includes photos from the book, plus photos from Metnick’s most recent trip to Poland, including many not seen in prior Providence exhibitions of his work. In addition, Metnick will give a talk about his experiences in Poland, and he will sign copies of “Captured in Memory.”

The exhibition goes beyond the book to include Metnick’s interest in important moments in our own Jewish community and during his years in Israel. In fact, one print featured in the exhibit is loaded with memory and meaning for many East Siders: A serigraph of Metnick’s 1978 drawing of the first meeting to organize the Solomon Schechter Day School of Rhode Island, a Conservative school on Morris Avenue in Providence that eventually became the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island. Also featured in the exhibit are Metnick’s unique prints from a Haggadah, which are paired with quotes from writings by Elie Wiesel, and several prints illustrating events in the Bible. 

“There will be selections from three different bodies of my work,” Metnick explained.

The exhibition opens at 4 p.m. in the Bohnen Vestry with a gallery talk by Metnick, a question-and-answer session, a book signing and light refreshments. All are invited.

Captured in Memory: An Exhibition is the second of three events offered this spring by Arts Emanu-El at Temple Emanu-El. On May 4, Arts Emanu-El will join with the Yom Ha-Shoah Committee of Temple Emanu-El to present a performance of “Phoenix from the Ashes: Terezin in Words and Music,” by Judith Lynn Stillman. Reservations can be made starting three weeks prior to the event.

For more information about Captured in Memory: An Exhibition, go to teprov.org or call Temple Emanu-El at 401-331-1616. Tickets are not required for the exhibit but a donation of $5 is suggested and would be greatly appreciated.

LINDA SHAMOON is co-chair of Arts Emanu-El at Temple Emanu-El.