by Alison Zavos in New Photography on Monday 19 May 2008

I am immediately drawn to anything that reminds me of my childhood, so I was taken with this photo of Keren, a subject in Dina Kantor’s quirky and playful series, Finnish & Jewish. We caught up with her recently to discuss the photos. What made you embark on this series? ‘I began photographing the Jewish community in Finland a few years ago as a way to explore my heritage, but also to delve into the issues of making a portrait of a group of people. I also wanted to think more critically about how photography helps define our ideas of identity and community. 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 am not related to anyone in the community who I am photographing, though we share certain cultural characteristics’.

Is there something unexpected that you found all of your subjects have in common? ‘I’’ve photographed about 300 people, so it would be difficult to generalize and say that they had something besides the community walls in common. I guess they have themselves in common. The community is small enough that they all seem to know each other fairly well –even those people who live in other cities and many of them are related. Everyone was amazing –they were all incredibly nice and hospitable, and they seemed to be just as interested in learning about me as I was in learning about them. Many of my photo shoots turned into dinners and drinks and even a weekend away. I am lucky to have spent so much time getting to know such a remarkable group of people’.

Do you read photography blogs? ‘I do read a handful of blogs, but try to keep it to a minimum. If I read them all I’d never get any work done! Amy Stein and Cara Phillips are good friends, so I tend to check their blogs fairly regularly. Right now, I am helping my friend Kate, who started The Girl Project, with her blog. The Girl Project is an organization that gives teenage girls disposable cameras to photograph anything they like. The photographs are then collected and will be turned into an exhibition and a book. The Girl Project Blog is a great resource for teenage girls to get introduced to photography, and it showcases some of their amazing photographs’.

Are you working on a new project that you can talk about? ‘Honestly, I still have about 100 rolls of film from my last trip to Finland that I am working on, so I’’m not quite ready to move onto the next body of work yet. When Finnish & Jewish is published, I’’ll let you know about the next project!’
Dina Kantor
Dina Kantor
Dina Kantor