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Student Feature | Jenny Rafalson

By Featured, Multimedia, Photo, Photo Essay, SAIC

In the Student Features section, we spotlight students’ work that we find especially moving/invigorating/challenging/vexing/arousing/what have you. We place no restrictions on year, department, media, or anything other conceivable identifier. This time, we’re featuring Jenny Rafalson, whose photography deals with what it means to be a transplant, in every possible sense of the term. Want to see your work in the Student Features section? Send an email with a selection of work, a short description, and biographical information to SAIC Section Editor Dustin Lowman, and Photo/Video Editor John Choi.

About Jenny Rafalson

I was born in the former Soviet Union (1986) and grew up in Israel after having moved there at the age of five. Recently I moved to Chicago to study at SAIC in the Photography department.

As an immigrant in Israel, my father encouraged me to adapt to my new surroundings, and meld with the Israeli culture. His well-intentioned approach to assimilation was overwhelmed by the hostile attitude towards immigrants in Israel, which made me so ashamed of my Russian identity that I tried to erase it, trying to be as Israeli as possible, as quickly as possible. When at last I felt Israeli enough, I began to take an interest in exploring and tracing my Russian roots. In my work, I  tried to understand, investigate, and imitate the culture I had grown ashamed of. I did this primarily by creating memories (because I didn’t have any of them), with material borrowed from friends and Facebook groups. Now, as a foreigner again in a new society, I am interested in what it means to belong, to truly be a local. When does something or someone become a local rather than an outsider? I do this through plants because I think it is very easy for us, as modern humans, to sever plants from their places of origin, and then to attribute them to Western culture.

For the time being, I don’t have a specific post-graduate program, because I like to tune in rather than planning life ahead. Maybe it’s a cliché, but I really believe that life leads us to unexpected places.

  • This pair of photos is one of the first I took at the beginning of this project. For me, this tree reminds me of my childhood. In almost every apartment blocks Media: Analog photography Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • This pair of photos is one of the first I took at the beginning of this project. For me, this tree reminds me of my childhood. In almost every apartment blocks Media: Analog photography Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • I took this photo on my first month in Chicago and in school while I felt disconnected from home (Israel) and from the new place in my empty apartment. Media: Analog photography Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • In the sequence of the following pictures, I tried to observe the vegetation in the areas where I grew up in Israel, most of which were neighborhoods of immigrant apartment blocks. In my work, in general, I collect flowers that grow outside, in the housing project, and photograph them in my parents' home, in my room. One time my mother asked me to put the flowers in the tub and not in the vase, as usually does with flowers. Media: Analog photography Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • This image was first photography as analog photography and rephotographed digitally. When I moved to Chicago I lost the negative and had only a small scan of the negative. What I did is to print it small and rephotograph it that I will be able to print it bigger. Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • This image was first photography as analog photography and rephotographed digitally. When I moved to Chicago I lost the negative and had only a small scan of the negative. What I did is to print it small and rephotograph it that I will be able to print it bigger. Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • This image was first photography as analog photography and rephotographed digitally. When I moved to Chicago I lost the negative and had only a small scan of the negative. What I did is to print it small and rephotograph it that I will be able to print it bigger. Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • In these two pictures, I look at my childhood landscape, and the attempt to flower and give a more colorful look to these neighborhoods. There is something ironic about this attempt to beautify them. Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • Photographed by Jenny Rafalson
  • Shortly after the beginning of the fall semester, I realized that the winter will begin faster in Chicago than I was used to. So I began to preserve flowers that I thought I could use during the semester. That's one of them. Media: Digital photography Photographed by Jenny Rafalson

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