Rafael Goldchain is a well-respected Canadian photographer. His photographs are included in the collections of major museums including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, the Museum of Modern Art, the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y Las Artes (México), and the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile.
Goldchain was born in 1953 of Polish-Jewish heritage in Santiago, Chile and educated in Jerusalem, Israel before moving to Toronto. He earned a Master of Fine Arts at York University (2000) and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Photographic Studies at Ryerson University (1980).
Goldchain’s roots in Chile and México drew him to work in México and Central America in the 1980s and 1990s. This prolific period yielded works that enlisted portraiture and personal documentary to stage a vision-from-exile of diverse lands and cultures convulsed by conflict and rapid change. Nostalgia for an Unknown Land, as the work came to be known, received praise from critics, curators and collectors and was exhibited across Canada, in the US, México, Cuba, and Chile. Photographs from this body of work were purchased and exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Canada Council Art Bank, and by corporate and private collections. A limited-edition monograph of the same title was published in 1989 by Lumiere Press (Toronto).
In the late 1990s and early 2000s Goldchain moved into the studio to stage a series of self-portraits of himself as his ancestors, many lost in the Holocaust, and many who spread out over South and Central America in the early 20th century. Collected in a book entitled I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions (Princeton Architectural Press 2008) these performative images suggest an intimate link between identity, memory, history and photographic portraiture. Images from this body of work have been published in several books including Ho Tam, Frontline (Beijing: Modern Press, 2011), Robert Hirsch, Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age (UK, Focal Press, 2012), William Ewing, Face: The New Photographic Portrait (London: Thames and Hudson, 2007) and exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto), Le Mois de la Photo a Montréal, and the Martin Gropius Bau (Berlin) amongst other Canadian and international galleries.
In recent bodies of work (Beautifully Broken, 2011, and later) Goldchain resorts to architectural and natural subject matter. Conceived as a form of self-portraiture, images of crumbling pillars and tangled shrubs are meditations on aging, beauty, complexity and mortality that seek a balance between vulnerability and strength.
Rafael Goldchain’s distinctions include the Leopold Godowsky Prize in Photography (Photographic Resource Centre at Boston University,1989) and the Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography (The Canada Council, 1989). In 2001 Goldchain traveled to Chile and Argentina with Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as part of a Canadian cultural delegation.
Goldchain’s life and work are the subject of a documentary film entitled “Beautifully Broken: The Life and Times of Rafael Goldchain” (TVO, Willing Mind Productions, Vladimir Kabelik, Director 2013). Goldchain is represented by Carole Tanenbaum (Toronto) and Galerie Claude Samuel (Paris).