Our identities are not always self-directed. We are seen as children, siblings, spouses and parents. We are also identified by our age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation. In some cases, our identity is validated by way of official documents issued by governmental agencies, corporate entities, and religious authorities. Officially, we are only what the validating documents say we are.
In visually exploring the passports and other official documentation of Jews emigrating from Europe in the first half of the Twentieth Century, I have found that contemporary themes of immigration and emigration emerge. The tragedy of being vilified in one’s homeland and the subsequent horrors faced by refugees reverberates across time. For those depicted in stark portraits affixed to state-issued documents, the stamp of official validation often meant the difference between life and death.