Photo show: the beautiful and the haunting

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


A few years ago, photographer David Aschkenas invited me to view an exhibition of his work at the Jewish Community Center and I met him there to look at them.
The images mesmerized me. They were from Eastern Europe. They were stark; I remember them as black and white, or sepia. 
They homed in on pieces of a scene and magnified the mundane along with the glorious.
Not long afterward, he sent me some emails of photos he had taken in Prague, a city I had visited at the dawn of the post-Soviet era. I fell hard for that city of gorgeous 14th and 15th century buildings.
On that trip, I found the old Jewish cemetery and took slow, quiet steps along its paths. Its tablet tombstones were tightly packed together in disheveled states of leaning, fallen and stacked It was one of the most disquieting and moving sites I’ve ever visited.
His emailed photo of the same cemetery struck a chord of remembrance and I have studied his work ever since, including the series of shots showing the process of disassembling the Civic Arena.
His latest photo show "Synagogues of Prague and Budapest," is up now at the Berger Gallery at the Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center, 5738 Darlington Road, Squirrel Hill. The official opening reception is from 6-8p, April 23, and it’s free and open to the public. Museum hours are 5.30a to 10p Monday-Thursday, 5.30a to 6p Friday and 8a to 6p Saturday and Sunday.
It shows 23 photographs of the architecture and the artifacts that described the community over time, including pieces of cloth, threadbare chairs and old desks. He took these photos during trips to these cities between 2011-2013.
During the run of this show, his works will be displayed at the American Jewish Museum and Jubilee Synagogue in Prague.
David Aschkenas photo of the oldest synagogue in Europe, dating to 1270, in Prague, the Czech Republic


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