“He doesn’t like my name… Of course we couldn’t all come over on the Mayflower… But I got here as soon as I could, and I never want to go back, because to me it is a great privilege to be an American citizen.”
Anton Cermak, Czech born, upon his arrival at Ellis Island 1931
“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
According to the Ellis Island website, Ellis Island opened in 1892 as an immigration station. For more than 60 years, millions of newly arrived immigrants passed through its doors. My father’s family was processed there after escaping the German concentration camps in 1946. In fact, it has been estimated that close to 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island. It closed in 1954, and began its fade into living history.
In 1984 Geoffrey Ithen made contact with a University professor who had access to the island, and I joined them. Loaded with 8x10 large format cameras, we traversed over a newly constructed pontoon bridge from New Jersey. The ghosts of the past were everywhere, as Ellis Island was almost completely deserted — the renovation to come was only first beginning. When it was completed and the museum opened, the first show included prints by Geoffrey and myself.