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Dina Kantor June 19, 2008

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Finland.
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Jaakov, Helsinki, 2006 from the Finnish & Jewish series

Dina Kantor is a Brooklyn-based photographer who began her career photographing for the Minneapolis City Pages. She received her MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2007, and her BA in journalism and studio arts from the University of Minnesota. Dina’s photographs have been featured in various publications including Photo District News. She was named to Heeb Magazines Heeb 100 list in 2007 and has received grants from both the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Finlandia Foundation National. Her photographs have been exhibited nationwide.

About the Photograph:

At the time that this image was made, Jaakov had recently graduated from the Jewish day school in Helsinki and had moved on to a public high school. Jaakov is the son of an American Jewish father, and a Finnish mother who converted. This photo is from a series of portraits that I have been making of the members of the Jewish community in Finland. Finland has a population of 5.3 million people, with only an estimated 1,500 Jews (and just two synagogues). I am interested in how such a small community maintains its cultural identity.

My mother was born in Finland and emigrated to America as a child in 1947. Almost thirty years later, when she married my father, she converted to Judaism. I began photographing in Finland as a way to explore my own heritage, but as the project continues, it has come to embody a larger exploration.

With these pictures, I am investigating the ways in which photography contributes to the construction of identity and community. Today’s society is increasingly complex and multi-cultural. As our heritages blend, our identities are no longer definable by a generic social stereotype of community, but by our unique experiences and backgrounds. Photography has an intrinsic ability to record details. I am employing it to record cultural signifiers and traditions as they blend, as well as to depict physical characteristics of a hybridized community.

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