Photography at the Mikveh

Jewish Community

by Hannah Altman

I’m currently working on a photo series about the strength of the mikveh, and my research led me to the wonderful and inclusive community at Mayyim Hayyim. During my visit, I was so inspired. The open-minded approach to immersion aligned perfectly with how I view Jewish ritual, so making photographs in the space felt peaceful. The staff not only allowed me to photograph an entire immersion with the consent of the immersee (a rarity, considering the intimate nature of the space), but made sure I felt welcome, and encouraged the continuation of my project by providing resources, and letting me make this blog post and connect with more women that would like to be included in this portrait series (hi!). 

In my project, I’m interested in how participating in ancient ritual connects Jewish women in their lives both to each other and to their ancestors. The mikveh is a powerful example of this because of its simultaneous collective and intimate nature.

My photo project is looking for female-identifying participants who use the mikveh for any reason, whether it was once to heal from grief, yearly to mark a birthday, or monthly for niddah (the practice of abstaining from sexual intimacy around the time of menstruation). I think the range of use for the mikveh that Mayyim Hayyim encourages is an incredible way to
connect the past, present, and future of Jewish ritual.

If you would like to participate in this project, you will have a portrait made in your home environment, to portray how the mikveh is present in all aspects of our lives. No nudity is required for this project. All ages, locations, and level of observance are welcome. The women who pose for me are always active collaborators in the photographic process, as I believe in the healing power of portrayed gaze and narrative. This is an ongoing project.

If you are interested in participating in Hannah’s project, you can contact her at hannahaltman1@gmail.com.

Hannah Altman is a Jewish photography graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. You can view more of her work on her website (contains nudity). 

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