Fine Art Photography Daily

Thesis Project: Hannah Altman

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©Hannah Altman, Shabbos Candles, 2018.

Hannah Altman’s work brings to mind collective identity and the intricate bonds we share within our chosen community. Her visual poetics bring to life photos that extend beyond what we might see in her images. Her sensitivity to light, gesture, and expression bring out the familial recollections she talks about in her artist statement and the generous intimacy of her portraits invoke the empathy necessary to engage in work like this.

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©Hannah Altman, Threshold, 2019.


Jewish thought suggests that the memory of an action is as primary as the action itself. This is to say that when my hand is wounded, I remember other hands. I trace ache back to other aches – when my mother grabbed my wrist pulling me across the intersection, when my great-grandmother’s fingers went numb on the ship headed towards Cuba fleeing the Nazis, when Miriam’s palms enduringly poured water for the Hebrews throughout their desert journey – this is how the Jew is able to fathom an ache. Because no physical space is a given for the Jewish diaspora, time and the rituals that steep into it, are centered as a mode of carrying on. The bloodline of a folktale, an object, a ritual, pulses through interpretation and enactment. In this work I explore notions of Jewish memory, narrative heirlooms, and image making; the works position themselves in the past as memories, in the present as stories being told, and in the future as actions to interpret and repeat. To encounter an image in this way is not only to ask what it feels like, but to ask: what does it remember like?

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©Hannah Altman, Keeping Time, 2019.

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©Hannah Altman, Afternoon In North Carolina, 2019.

BB: In this time of social-distancing and greater isolation, how have you adapted your studio practice to the current situation, and and how is it impacting the work you’re making now? 
HA: Unfortunately my MFA thesis exhibition was cancelled, but I am grateful that having a digital camera and a laptop allows my me to continue working from home.
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©Hannah Altman, Sunrise in New Jersey, 2020.

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©Hannah Altman, Sunset in Jerusalem, 2020.

BB: As the traditional model of brick and mortar exhibition spaces become more difficult to sustain, both the arts organizations and the artist need to find solutions to sharing photographs. How best can an organization support the artist and visa versa? 
HA: Funding for not just art practices but essential living for artists (food, masks, rent relief), virtual exhibitions, and more artist features online.
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©Hannah Altman, Tzitzit (Threads), 2019.

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©Hannah Altman, Washing the Dead (Funeral for a Beetle), 2019.

BB: How are you finding community (online and in person) in a climate in which we increasingly rely on digital platforms to connect with each other? 
HA: So much more screen time…but free sharing-oriented resources like social media are playing such a big role in connection during this time.
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©Hannah Altman, By the Window, 2019.

BB: What are your thoughts on being a photographer today? 
HA: I keep thinking in gratitude that this medium is adaptable and flexible.
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©Hannah Altman, Winter Solstice, 2020.

Hannah Altman is a Jewish-American artist from New Jersey. Her work interprets relationships between gestures, the body, interiority, and lineage, exploring the structures that perpetuate them using photographic-based media. She has recently exhibited with the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Blue Sky Gallery, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Junior High Gallery. Her work has been published in the Carnegie Museum of Art Storyboard, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, and British Journal of Photography, among others. She has delivered lectures on her work and research across the country, including Yale University and the Society for Photographic Education National Conference. She is the 2019 recipient of the Bertha Anolic Israel Travel Award and 2020 MFA candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Keep up with Hannah Altman here.

Instagram: @hannah.altman

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