Review by Gerhard Clausing •
All of us who have roots or interests in more than one culture (maybe that’s even most of us) can benefit greatly from the many insights Rohina Hoffman has incorporated in this new photobook. As a member of US society with roots in India, as one who has advanced to the important roles of stellar member of an extended family as well that of a physician who is of great benefit to many others, she can share many important observations and bits of wisdom. In this special second book of hers, she entices us to participate in embracing a multilayered understanding of both the micro and macro realms of a wondrous world.
In the first part of the book, we are treated to many well-conceived images of those around her, bearing fresh fruits and vegetables. We also find interleaves with ideas about how to incorporate these healthy ingredients in the adjacent images into tasty recipes that have an Indian touch to them (one of my two favorite cuisines, the other one being Thai). The first two images below show such a double page as one of many examples. Poetic musings are also interspersed. Even a recipe from her mother is included, along with a documentary photograph. The individuals portrayed wear clothes that show a mix of past and present cultural influences. This section also serves as an homage to food and family, with many moments inviting personal examination and contemplation.
That leads us to the middle section, printed on blue background. Rohina Hoffman’s written observations, detailing stations along her life journey so far, have also been translated from English into Hindi and carefully rendered in a historically derived writing system known as Devanāgarī, and are printed in this book.
The second pictorial portion displays images that place a greater emphasis on depicting items of symbolic and environmental significance. For instance, the ocean is shown as the great divider of her family, living on more than one continent. Body adornments, pieces of jewelry, and realia remind us of the cultural origins, transferred to the adopted new culture. These are drawn from Hoffman’s project Generation 1.75. As she states, “Generation 1.75 is a metaphorical and lyrical look at themes of loss, unrootedness, and gained perspective in my personal journey of migration, identity, and the emotions that accompany the lifelong exploration of where I belong and who I am.” The very name of the project implies that while the two existences one experiences are not two complete identities, they contain pieces of both realms, and it is up to the individual with mixed roots to combine the best of both parts into a fruitful whole.
An index of images with special titles casts further light on the author’s intent, and the astute essays by Paula Tognarelli and Geeta Kothari further explain the context and implications of this complex and delightful exploration of personal fusion, so inspiring and worthwhile for us to embrace!
The PhotoBook Journal previously featured a review of Rohina Hoffman’s Hair Stories by Melanie Chapman.
Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Rohina Hoffman – Embrace
Photographer: Rohina Hoffman (born in India; lives in the Los Angeles area, California, USA)
Poetry: Rohina Hoffman
Publisher: Schilt Publishing and Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands; © 2023
Essays: Rohina Hoffman, Paula Tognarelli, Geeta Kothari
Languages: English and Hindi (Translation and Devanāgarī transliteration by Kisha Ravi, Kumar Rajesh, Mamta Kumar)
Hardback with illustrated cover; 144 pages, unpaginated, with 52 images; 8 x 10.25 inches (20 x 26 cm); printed in Germany by Offizin Scheufele GmbH, Stuttgart, and bound by Großbuchbinderei Spinner GmbH, Ottersweier; ISBN 978-90-5330-954-4
Photobook Designer: Caleb Cain Marcus, Luminositylab
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.
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