Here and There by Jillian Edelstein
Healing, reconciliation, and the human journey
Instead of picking up a gun, Jillian Edelstein picked up a camera.
Growing up in the Apartheid regime of South Africa Jillian made portraits that refused to turn away from suffering, and illuminated the deep bravery of her subjects in response to brutality. This body of work became her first book - Truth and Lies: Stories of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, published by Granta.
It was only later in life that Jillain discovered she had an unknown and uprooted branch of her own family, living in Ukraine. Being of Jewish ancestry Jillian's great aunt Minna had endured three forced evacuations due to conflict and persecution, echoing the archetypal human tale of displacement, loss, and searching for home.
Finding out about this lost family history unlocked a journey for Jillian. While on commission in 2002 for the Sunday Times Magazine Jillian spent time with the Sangoma shamans on the border of South Africa and Lesotho. As with many shamanic cultures the Sangoma highly value the wisdom of intuition, ancestral lineage, and place for healing and guidance. It was here that Jillain was told during a shamanic reading that her own ancestors were in conflict. How could this be healed?
Healing begins with bearing witness. Healing begins with those simple words "I see You."
Throughout Here and There Jillian weaves the act of witnessing through the multiple personal contexts of her own life into the broader political climate we now face, and the deeper human story of finding our place in the world.
Stillness, arguably, is the essence of photography. The still image. This is what is evoked in me when I spend time with Here and There – stillness. Rootedness. And contemplation. Time slows down.
In searching for place, for home, Jillian's work provides me with temporary respite. Image after image opens a small window in the day to breathe more deeply, and find refuge within the fleeting moments of the daily grind.
Looking at the portrait of Desmond Tutu, his strong hands softly on the table, the wrinkle of skin as he rests his forehead on them, I'm asked a question. Is he exhausted? If so, who could blame him? Is he grieving? Again, who could blame him? Is he in prayer? The ring on his finger, a sign of his devotion and love. The watch on his wrist, near to his ear, a tick-tock reminder of the schedule he has to keep. Can I see myself in this? How do I measure up in light of his example? Can I find the same courage? Can I find the same love?
What other questions will Here and There ask me, if I let it?
Here and There by Jillian Edelstein is currently being crowdfunded. Click here for more information on this beautiful book: https://unbound.com/books/here-and-there