Taking photos of Holocaust survivors helped me find my own identity

Harry Bordens leader didnt often am worried about being Jewish, so it was left to Harrys grandmother to stir him experience his patrimony was special. And when his wedlock culminated, it proved invaluable

My dad, Charlie Borden, was birth in New York in 1929, the only son of Jewish immigrants who had moved to the US as children. “His fathers” was from Ukraine and his mother from Romania. Having escaped the genocides of eastern Europe, they met and marriage, constructed their own house in Upstate New York and had my dad.

Dad has always been an atheist. He has no truck with any belief. If “hes been” evangelical about anything, it was being an American. In that more innocent era, the US was a welcoming residence, earmarking everybody the opportunity to get on. During world war two, he lied about his age and joined the US Marines, simply missing active service. After that, he went into advertising. I learned so much about him from watching Mad Men.

He has never genuinely spoken about being Jewish, but he is a typical Norman Mailer-type wise-cracking Jewish person. He has the witticism, the putdowns. As a son, he boxed, like his pa and his uncle, who was a promotor with three world-wide endorses in his stable of boxers. Boxing was very much part of Jewish life in New York then and Dads humour was like a verbal crusade to be the funniest guy in the room. He is macho, competitive, pugnacious and perturbed perhaps the product of generations hardened by random violence. His mentality is contending his corner.

By the time he came to England to work as the skill director of a freshman agency, he had a wife and baby son me. My mum was half-Irish, half-English, quite posh, the daughter and granddaughter of admirals. We settled in Fulham, south-west London, and my brother and sister were born. I believe Dad seemed influence in an manufacture that is constantly go looking for newer, shinier beings. He wanted to be his own boss, so he sold the house and bought a swine farm in Devon 30 acres and a mass of concrete structures on a cold , north-facing slope.

Harry
Harry Borden as small children.

Growing up in Devon, I knew that part of Dads identity was other. I searched up to him he seemed fairly handsome, completely different and much cool than the other dads. He was not communicative particularly with his children. I recollect travelling with him to deliver pigs that was my period out, a rusty old-fashioned van and squeaking swine. I would try manufacturing conference but he wasnt interested. He always seemed to be somewhere else.

The only comment he would construct to his Jewishness in a avoid I heard often was that the Nazis would have killed people like us. I used to find it sickening. I was acutely recognizing also that we came from over the hills. There were a couple of instances where it came up. I recollect Dad taking me and my friend to the Devon county show, and my friend speaking the Mini Metro was a real Jew car meaning it applied hardly any petrol. There was an horrific, embarrassing pause and Dad later took me aside and told me that what he had said was offensive though I instinctively knew. Another time, on a school trip to Germany, some of the person or persons I was with inaugurated clearing laughs about soiled Jews. I recollect detecting a little bit ashamed that I didnt say anything.

Ella
Ella Prince, a Holocaust survivor: A long street from the ditches of life in my early youth to the elegance and freedom of Australia, at my sundown Photo: Harry Borden

For Dad, Jewishness was only a burden. Then his mother, Lillian, who had been widowed, moved from the US to live with us. Her stance to being Jewish was completely different. She would talk about it and point out people who were Jewish, including, she claimed, Charlie Chaplin. She made it seem a bit special like a really great association to be in.

When you are a teenager, you secretly want to find out you are a monarch, or were adopted. In Devon, my Jewish heritage fed into that narrative. As I got into photography, I began to realise that all the startling photographers I adored were Jewish: Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon to me, the holy trinity! Then I discovered Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and, eventually, Seinfeld. Why wouldnt you want to accent that part of you?

I was 40 when I inaugurated photographing Holocaust survivors. I wanted to use photography to an smart culminate, with something that would stand the test of age. Dads ambivalence towards Jewishness was another motivation. He gets no spiritual sustenance from being Jewish , good-for-nothing from the institutions , no parish or social network and yet it is still clearly an integrated part of his identity.

I took picture first in the UK and then Australia, and next I had contrived a trip to Israel. Just epoches before I was due to go, my bride intent our 14 -year marriage. It was appalling, like a trapdoor opening, and I tried to cancel the journey. Then I made, Actually, this might be best available circumstance for me.

Leon
Leon Rosenzweig: The best era of my life is when I am with my family. Image: Harry Borden

It was. I arrived in an emotionally raw country, inhaling forever, and I lost 15 kg( 2st 5lb ). I recollect driving around Jerusalem, in tears, completely lost. But it was amazing. Talking to survivors gives you a sense of perspective about your own life, your own concerns. You realise that what you are dealing with is of relatively limited upshot. People were so category. I went to my first Shabbat which for me was about friends and family grouped together. It was a exceedingly healing trip and, by the end, I was in a much better place. When I needed it most, I got a sustenance that my dad had never found.

Lots of photographers have taken photographs of Holocaust survivors, but I photographed 200 over three years. I just saved travelling. It was an investigate of my identity. There was this personal investment.

Though I have suggested to Dad a few trips to Israel, or to his fathers homeland in Ukraine he is not interested. He will say something like, Why? They still hate Jews! And that will be it. When the book was finished, I took it over to presents him. He is not that interested actually. He belief the publishers had done a nice job. Thats as good as youre going to get.

As assure to Anna Moore

Survivor: A Portrait of the Survivors of the Holocaust by Harry Borden is published by Cassell Octopus, 30. To guild a emulate for 25, going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or call the Guardian Bookshop on 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online tells simply. Phone orders min. p& p of 1.99.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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