Table of Contents

Jewish North Africa


Vestiges of Rome

Re-Visioning Antiquites

Portfolios Index

Images of Jewish Morocco I '93

Jewish Sites of Cairo and Alexandria '94

Images of Jewish Morocco II '95

Tunisia '97

About the Jewish North African Portfolios

About the Prints

About the Artist

Maisonneuve Interview

Order Prints

Contact Us

Photographer's Note on the Jewish North Africa Project

One of the defining attributes of the Jewish people--something that has sustained a core of Jewish life through a turbulent flux of history largely hostile to it--is that the real structures of Jewish communities are not constructions of stone, but rather an architecture of the soul and mind. The true "monuments" of Jewish communities reside in the Jewish way of life which is carried across the vacillations of history in suitcases and prayer books, rather than fixed to the soil with mortar and brick.

I have sought to document the sites and structures of a past Jewish life just as I come upon them, unembellished by artistic effect. To give them their present day context, I have where possible documented as well the street world that has risen in their immediate vicinity, thus recording a historical transition: the Jewish communities are gone. Left are these remnants--at first turned to other, utilitarian functions--eventually unrecognizable as once-Jewish sites. In the case of sites that have been abandoned, left derelict or turned to other uses, my intent has been not to dramatize loss, but to record their passing beauty in the course of a historical process of change.

This is entirely a contemporary work. Its focus is not the monumental subjects of 19th century architectural photography but the transient architecture of daily use. I sought to document not only the end of 2000 years of Jewish communities in these areas, but also the nature of our current age, when more people have been set adrift from their traditional communities than at any other time in human history. I present a fragment of this story of cultural transience sifted out of the world of stones and dust. As such, I have made a document of the present.

D.R. Cowles
September 2002