Uman, Rosh Hashanah (2008-2012), by a Ukrainian photographer Maxim Dondyuk, is a compelling visual story of a massive Jewish pilgrimage to Uman, a small town in central Ukraine. Every year over 20,000 of pilgrims from around the globe flock to Uman to visit the grave of rabbi Nahman from Breslav († 1810), the founder of Hasidism, and celebrate the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah. Pilgrims gathering in Uman once a year seek a group ‘cleansing’ from smaller and bigger sins, but also attract plenty of attention and cause tensions and controversy (which Donduyk doesn’t mention on his website).
The photographer portrays the Rosh Hashanah in a visually captivating, almost romantic way. Even though he gets up close with the pilgrims, it still is an outsider’s view and the distance is almost palpable. I find it fascinating how hardly anyone makes an eye-contact with the photographer and, hence the viewer, but also how his portraits somehow transform into landscapes. A very interesting piece documenting an ethnic and religious minority that becomes a majority for few days every year.