Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Jewish Photographer Creates Online Frenzy With Controversial Photo Series

Steve Rosenfield captured the faces of members of an Orthodox Jewish community with their insecurities written plainly on their faces.

By: Ashley Ramnarain

Published: January 31st, 2014 in Culture » Art » News

California-based photographer, Steve Rosenfield, has elicited a great deal of controvery and buzz in the Othodox Jewish community of New York. Rosenfield captured the faces of multiple young religious men and women – all with unsettling phrases written on their bodies.

“My goal is to make people uncomfortable,” Rosenfield said. “I want the viewer to look at the image and know people are struggling with their stuff.”

Well, it looks like Rosenfield has succeeded in achieveing discomfort, especially with one particular photo in which he photographs Ben Faulding, a 30-year-old Hasid from Crown Heights. Faulding, of biracial parentage, is featured with the word “Schvartze” on his forehead – akin to the N word, but in Yiddish.

Another unsettling image is one titled “I am Not My Molestation” featuring 20-year-old Dasha Sominski, a student at the Yeshiva University. Sominski is photographed with the words “I was NOT sleeping” on her face.

Rosenfield is adamant that the project was a completely personal one that didn’t seem likely to spread in the way that it did.

“It’s about me expressing my insecurities,” the photographer explained, “I am embarrassed how race is treated in the Jewish community.”

In addition, Rosenfield’s project was originally going to be featured in an exhibit at Yeshiva University. However, the controversy and negative attention Rosenfield’s work has developed on the world wide web has led to his removal from the aforementioned exhibit.

The dean of students at Yeshiva University, Dr. Chaim Nisell, even released a statement saying that,

“After close review and much discussion of this event with the student organizers, and taking the sensitivities of all of our students into consideration, we determined that a YU venue would not be able to showcase the project in its entirety.”

Meanwhile, other universities like Princeton and Columbia have been displaying Rosenfield’s work, with some students even participating in Rosenfield’s message technique.

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