New York-based photographer Melanie Einzig has been photographing Purim, a Jewish holiday, for over ten years in Brooklyn, New York. Einzig grew up in Minnesota and moved to New York in 1990. She worked for the Associated Press from 1998-2001 and since the early 2000’s has focused on personal work and event photography. Her photos have been exhibited internationally, are included in the collections of major art museums and have been printed in several books about photography. Einzig was a member of the street photography collective in-Public from 2003-2016. Below, Einzig describes her draw to photographing Purim, whose 2018 festivities begin tomorrow night and end the evening of March 1.
One of my favorite days to photograph in New York is on the Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim commemorates how the Jews of Persia were saved from a plot against them through the actions of Queen Esther. One of the celebratory customs is to participate in costumed festivities. I’ve photographed this holiday on the streets of ultra-orthodox communities in Brooklyn for over a decade. I’ve become particularly interested in the growing trend of dressing up as secular and ordinary figures and objects. I find these costumes funny, clever and beautiful, as well as an inversion of the sect’s usual practice of shunning secular things. They also poke fun at some of the accepted signs of American culture. Generally photography is not welcome or allowed in the Hasidic community. However, this day, as the years go on, people seem to be exhibiting more flexibility in response to photographers. I’ve even seen a religious pre-teen girl run out of her house with an SLR to photograph her younger siblings posing in white Queen Esther gowns in a snowstorm.
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