Patrick Zachmann’s Voyages de mémoire at the mahJ in Paris

The first major retrospective at the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Paris devoted to a living photographer, Patrick Zachmann’s Voyages de mémoire is a sweeping, decades-long study of Jewish culture, rooted in the photographer’s search for his own identity.

From Paris to Marseille, from the rue des Rosiers to the Buttes-Chaumont parc, from the most orthodox to the most secular, from the Lubavitch community to the wholesalers of the Sentier neighbourhood, from the last communist typographers of the Yiddish daily Naye Presse to the most “invisible” Jews, the photographer captures the different facets of French Jewishness, even though, for the first time since World War II, anti-Semitic attacks have taken place in France. And, sensing what will soon be called the “Age of the Witness”, he photographs the first gathering of Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem in 1981.
Member of the prestigious Magnum agency since 1985, he reports extensively outside France. His activity took him to South Africa in 1990 for the release of Nelson Mandela, where he attended a demonstration by supporters of apartheid, with swastikas and brown shirts. He traveled through Chile in 1999 in search of traces of political prison camps in the Atacama Desert. From Rwanda in 2000, six years after the Tutsi genocide, he brought back portraits of survivors and images of ossuaries that implacably evoke the scale of mass crime. That same year, he made the trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where his paternal grandparents were murdered, and returned with chilling images. As a counterpoint, in the 2010s, returning to Poland and Ukraine, he took unexpected and joyful photographs of the pilgrimages of Orthodox Jews to the graves of the founders of Hasidism. Finally, returning to the origins of his maternal family, he explores Orania and Eastern Morocco to find the vestiges of this North African Judaism present during time immemorial, and which today constitutes in the Maghreb a “disappeared world”, like that of his paternal family of Polish origin.
The first major solo exhibition at the mahJ of a living photographer, the exhibition presents nearly 300 works by Patrick Zachmann, from the 1970s to the 2015s, including many unpublished works and a film, La Mémoire de mon père. They reveal to us a humanist outlook on the world, nourished by the Jewish experience and therefore inhabited by the universal questions of exile, disappearance and oblivion.

[Text by curator Paul Salmona, director of the mahJ]

The exhibition runs from 02 December 2021 to 06 March 2022. More information here.

a selection of works from the exhibition