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Happy Purim from Estelle Hanania

VICE France began working with Estelle Hanania about two years ago when she showed us her photos of weird religious processions in Eastern Europe. The images, which were excerpts from her book, Parking Lot Hydra, brought to mind Sendak's...
July 20, 2011, 12:00am

VICE France began working with Estelle Hanania about two years ago when she showed us her photos of weird religious processions in Eastern Europe. The images, which were excerpts from her book, Parking Lot Hydra, brought to mind Sendak's beasts from Where the Wild Things Are. They were fun and bizarre and a little scary—basically everything we like in our photography. Since then we’ve featured her work in almost every issue of our French edition.

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For this year’s Photo Issue, Estelle went to the Stamford Hill district to get some shots of little Jewish kids dressed up as princess, old people, and traffic lights.

VICE: Who told you about the Purim festival in Stamford Hill?
Estelle: My friend Valeria, who lives in London, told me about it. She caught a glimpse of the event last year and knew my passion for all types of parties, fancy dresses, and stuff that makes you look mean, funny, or simply ridiculous.

How long did you stay there?
We stayed for the whole event, which is two days. Walking along the same streets of the neighborhood over and over again was particularly hectic. We kept on bumping into the same families and spotting the most interesting costumes. We were walking the whole time, trying to keep up with small groups of little dressed-up fellows.

Did their parents shout at you when you asked for permission to take pictures of their kids?
Actually, they all reacted differently. None of them really shouted at us, but many refused and some didn’t even look at us—they just lowered their eyes and walked on. But some parents were really pleased and eager to see their kids in the picture. Some weren’t even paying attention, some just flatly refused, and others smiled at us and accepted.

OK, but you told me you got freaked out more than a couple of times during those two days.
Not really. We only had one unpleasant time. We were hanging around in front of some houses and I was checking my phone while Valeria was writing down a few things in her notebook. A guy came out of his house, headed straight towards us, and asked what the hell we were doing here. He checked my phone, took Valeria’s notes, and asked us “Are you writing stuff about US?” Then he explained that the people of that community didn’t want to mix with others, and did not accept any kind of “publicity.” We left very quickly, I must say.

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What is your favorite costume out of all those pictures of dressed-up kids?
I’d say, without hesitation, the two little sisters dressed as Annie, from the musical. They look hilarious and sweet in their eccentric costumes.

And who was the cutest kid you met during your mission?
The cutest was a little boy who was sitting next to his older brother. He was dressed as a London cop with a scribbled moustache and a beard, which his brother probably drew on him. He was holding a walkie-talkie and would press it to his ear. He was probably only three feet tall, but he really got into the part.

Do you plan on taking more pictures of kids one day?
I do, very soon, actually. I am currently working on a new series of shots dealing with families. I also did some commercial stuff with children last week, and I had to sleep for three hours after the shoot. Kids are both exhausting and inspiring.

Is Purim more fun than a Christian festival?
I have no religious education. To be honest, I have no idea what a Christian festival looks like. If I turn up at one of them I'll tell you about it, but Purim is probably more fun.

WORDS: JULIEN MOREL
PHOTOS: ESTELLE HANANIA