Friday, February 28, 1986
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
never cease to be amazed," said a
baffled Bill Aron, "that my pictures move other
people. In galleries, I've seen people laugh and I've
seen people cry. And that' pleases me to no end."
It's appropriate that Aron, a Los Angeles-based
photographer, should be pleased: The work of an
artist — a good artist — should elicit tears and
laughter,, even an occasional shrug of confusion or a
snarl of dislike. The artist's task is to move people,
perhaps to jolt them. His job involves more than
self-expression. It should also give people new ways
of looking at themselves and their world.
All this, Aron, in his recently released book, From
the Corners of the Earth, does with grace and
consistency and an obvious love for his subject —
the contemporary Jewish world. For Aron to be
"amazed" that his photos affect people is reassuring
It reflects the photographer's quiet and gentle
• modesty. It is, on the other hand, disconcerting. It's
almost as if Aron considers his work so personal and
private that it is difficult for him to realize that his
splendid images resonate beyond his lens and his
persona to an entire people and an entire culture.
From The Corners Of The Earth is the. first
collection of Aron's work. It has been worth the
wait. A photographer for the past 15 years, Aron
has specialized in Jewish subjects. He has photo-
graphed elderly Jews in Cuba, Los Angeles, the
Soviet Union and the Lower East Side. He has
photographed Chasids' joy at weddings and their
passions at worship. He has sat in sukkahs in
Minsk, shed tears as his hosts shared their meager
food — and photographed them as they defied the
Politburo's attempts to make their religion
Aron, a sometimes reluctant photographer, has
strolled the ancient streets and alleys of Jerusalem,
camera in hand and heart in his throat, frightened
that the images on his film would only repeat those
which had already been photographed a million times
before by talented tourists or inspired professionals.
And he has left this sometimes anguished City of
Peace with photos as special and different as any
taken before him.
While the Jewish communities represented in From
The Corners Of The Earth are thousands of miles
from each other, "about a year ago," said Aron, "it
occurred to me that there is, at best, a represents-
. don of only one community." This community is
that of the Jewish family, a family different in
tradition and culture, in language and dress, but
which shares at every level — subliminal, spiritual,
material — a sense of oneness and history and fate.
Like any other 'family, it Is not quite seamless; like . •
most others; it has an elasticity that withstands
bickering and distance and hubris.
To this, too, the photos of Bill Aron are witness.
'People allowed me to enter their lives," said Aron
of his travels around the globe. And as he entered
them, he was drawn to a Judaism that he had never
Perhaps this is why Aron is "amazed" that people
react strongly to his work. Aron's photos document
his spiritual itinerary. They follow the route that has
Orchard Street, Lower East Side.
Orchard Street, Lower East Side: "Orchard Street is
just as it was fifty years ago, only the signs are now
in English instead of Yiddish. Every Sunday the street
is closed to traffic and there is a festival of bargains.
It is also the time to haggle over prices." — Bill Aron