WINCHESTER — The four shows currently at the Griffin Museum of Photography share a single title: “Legacy. Migration. Memory.” They run through March 5. That rubric is a tall order, and in varying degrees it accurately describes each show.
Loli Kantor’s “Beyond the Forest” consists of nearly 70 photographs she took in Ukraine and Poland between 2004 and 2012. A daughter of Holocaust survivors, Kantor went there to “document the lives of the disappearing population of Holocaust survivors and the reemergence of Jewish life.”
Actually, there’s one photograph that Kantor didn’t take. It’s of her parents’ wedding, in Munich, in 1946. It’s a tribute to the timeless quality of so many of Kantor’s images that the wedding picture doesn’t seem at all out of place. Only the caption makes it stand out.
The wedding photo is in black and white, as are two-thirds of the other pictures. Many are palladium contact prints. Small in scale, soft and warm in tonality, they’re like memories envisioned. That’s less the case with the color photographs. Color inevitably imparts a contemporaneity. Even so, Kantor has rendered the colors with a consistent softness that’s inviting, even welcoming. These pictures are of daily life, almost like pages from some kind of tribal family album. It’s a present in which the past never feels altogether absent.
Rosemarie Zens was born in 1944 in a town in eastern Germany that soon thereafter became part of Poland. She returned with a camera 70 years later. Might that history account for the arresting way in which these pictures feel at once connected to the landscape and apart from it?
Zens is given to lyrical titles. It’s there in the title of the show, “The Sea Remembers,” as well as individual photos (“Ailments of the Full Moon,” “Floating Memories”). She’s given to lyrical images, too, but it’s a lyricism that’s tempered and unillusioned.
The pictures fall into two groups: a dozen, large and in color, are of the outdoors; another 17, small and black-and-white, are mostly of people and interiors. The latter look like snapshots but feel like something more — Zens is very good at intimation. She has a knack for matter-of-fact mystery. It’s perhaps related to her fondness for weather: mist, snow, cold. What’s more mysterious in daily life than meteorology? Somehow Zens manages to make even cold visible. That’s as hard as showing the past in the present — and, when achieved, as transporting.
Larry Volk’s “The Story of Rose’s” consists of a video, “The 4 Questions,” and 10 collages. Drawing on images in the video, they combine old family photographs with personal documents, handwriting samples, and the like. Volk teaches at Endicott College, in Beverly. Rose is his mother, a Holocaust survivor, whose history he retells. That history takes in Cuba, Turkey, occupied France, and eventually the United States.
Growing up in India, Priya Kambli noticed how her mother would cut her own face out of family photographs. With that unnerving example in mind, Kambli obscures the faces of the subjects in the dozen photographs in “Kitchen Gods.” Instead of using scissors, she places the faces behind screens, fabrics, doilies. Decorativeness, if not decorum, subverts identity. A sepia tinge to the pictures makes them look homier yet slightly sinister — literally darkening them. The images feel occluded and inchoate. It’s impossible to say how much that’s intentional and how much owing to flawed conception or execution.
LEGACY. MIGRATION. MEMORY.
Loli Kantor: Beyond the Forest
Rosemarie Zens: The Sea Remembers
Larry Volk: The Story of Rose’s
Priya Kambli: Kitchen Gods
At Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester, through March 5.