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Vardi Kahana | One Family

1992-2007

Banner- Three Sister

Three Sisters, 1992

Vardi Kahana’s iconic photographic series One Family (1992-2007), was first presented at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2007 as a one-person exhibition, and since then has been the subject of major museum shows around the world. A curated selection of 21 images from the series was collated into a printed portfolio, with signature and edition numbers in a clamshell box including a colophon and an essay by Meir Shalev. This portfolio is part of the collections of several institutions and museums worldwide. 

A poignant and timely body of work, One Family depicts the various strands of Kahana’s family and their geographical and ideological dispersal. An incisive documentation of the artist’s own kin, this photographic series is also an astute reflection of Israeli society, and more broadly of Jewish genealogy and identity in the 20th and 21st centuries.  

The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan

The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit, 2005

text 1

Installation View, German and Israelis – The Exhibition, The Bundestag, Berlin, Germany, 2015

The point of inception for this deeply personal project is a single photograph depicting Kahana’s mother and her two sisters as mature adults (Three Sisters, Tel Aviv, 1992). Here, the three women are seated frontally, embracing, their gaze directed back towards the camera. However, the seemingly innocent family portrait enshrouds a sinister yet triumphant past; as teenagers, the three women were sent together to Auschwitz — evidenced in the photo by the consecutive identification numbers tattooed on their forearms. Together the three girls survived the horror of the camp, and together they moved to Israel to start their lives anew as young women. These women are the roots from which Kahana’s family emerged, developed and grew, its various branches scattered around the globe and the political map.

text 2

Installation View, One Family, Fotomuseum, Antwerp, Belgium, 2008

As a body of work, One Family chronicles the evolution of Kahana’s own tribe— from three young women to a large and diverse clan. It documents how the tight-knit unit of three sisters evolved into an extensive family torn asunder, its different strands ranging from ultra-orthodox to converts to Christianity, from fervent right wing believers to radical leftists, from Kibbutz dwellers to West Bank settlers, with several members refusing to talk to one another because of their religious or political beliefs. 

Shot in traditional portraiture style, in black and white, the direct and uncompromising nature of the photographs accentuates the distinctions within the family; the variety of lifestyles, opinions and beliefs present within this one clan. Devoid of voyeurism, hierarchy or criticism, Vardi Kahana’s family album is an intimate account of her kin, and the rifts and chasms caused by ideology, religion and politics. 

Installation TLV museum

Installation View, One Family, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel, 2007

Inasmuch as it is a personal history, this affecting body of work is a reflection of the Israeli collective; a physical and psychological embodiment of a national narrative.  It is, in the words of writer Meir Shalev a “family album [that] serves as an additional map of the annals of a land with more maps than any other.” This is the story of one family, but ultimately it is the story of us all.   

Vardi Kahana is Israel's foremost portrait photographer; she is best known for shooting the iconic images of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and many well known figures. She has been a staff photographer at some of Israel’s leading publications including Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronot, Monitin Monthly and Hadashot. Kahana’s One Family has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions around the world including at Princeton University, NJ; the Cummer Museum, Jacksonville, FL; Paul Lebe House, Bunestag, Berlin; Sinti and Roma Museum, Heidelberg; Amsterdam Public Library, Amsterdam; Arts Depot, London; Musée Juif de Belgique, Brussels; the Fotomuseum, Antwerp; the Akademie Der Kunste, Berlin; Centro per L'arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italy; and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art among many others. 

Aunt Adina and Uncle Aharon

Aunt Adina and Uncle Aharon, Herzliya, 2004

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Three Sisters, 1992 Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Three Sisters, 1992, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Three Brothers

Three Brothers, 1992, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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The Grandchildren of Cousin Shmuel, Copenhagen

The Grandchildren of Cousin Shmuel, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Yael, cousin Nathan's daughter, with her husband, Malachi, and their firstborn son Gur Arie Yehuda, Safed, 2007

Yael, cousin Nathan's daughter, with her husband, Malachi, and their firstborn son Gur Arie
Yehuda, Safed
, 2007, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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My mother Rivka and my children Gil and Roni, 2003

My mother Rivka and my children Gil and Roni, 2003, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit, 2005

The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit, 2005, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Uncle Moshe, Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, 2000

Uncle Moshe, Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, 2000, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Yizhar, my cousin Yonina's son, and his wife Ella, Ma'aleh Michmash, West Bank, 2004

Yizhar, my cousin Yonina's son, and his wife Ella, Ma'aleh Michmash, West Bank, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Aunt Adina and Uncle Aharon, Herzliya, 2004  Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Aunt Adina and Uncle Aharon, Herzliya, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Jonathan and Merav, My Brother Zvika's Children

Jonathan and Merav, My Brother Zvika's Children, Herzliya, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

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Three Sisters, 1992 Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Three Sisters, 1992, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Three Brothers

Three Brothers, 1992, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

The Grandchildren of Cousin Shmuel, Copenhagen

The Grandchildren of Cousin Shmuel, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Yael, cousin Nathan's daughter, with her husband, Malachi, and their firstborn son Gur Arie Yehuda, Safed, 2007

Yael, cousin Nathan's daughter, with her husband, Malachi, and their firstborn son Gur Arie
Yehuda, Safed
, 2007, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

My mother Rivka and my children Gil and Roni, 2003

My mother Rivka and my children Gil and Roni, 2003, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit, 2005

The Grandchildren of Cousin Hannan, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Ilit, 2005, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Uncle Moshe, Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, 2000

Uncle Moshe, Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, 2000, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Yizhar, my cousin Yonina's son, and his wife Ella, Ma'aleh Michmash, West Bank, 2004

Yizhar, my cousin Yonina's son, and his wife Ella, Ma'aleh Michmash, West Bank, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Aunt Adina and Uncle Aharon, Herzliya, 2004  Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Aunt Adina and Uncle Aharon, Herzliya, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper

Jonathan and Merav, My Brother Zvika's Children

Jonathan and Merav, My Brother Zvika's Children, Herzliya, 2004, Black & White Photograph Printed on Color Paper