Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Book Launch: Everyone is Present - Terry Kurgan in conversation with Tamar Garb and Eva Hoffman

20 February 2019, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Terry Kurgan

The IAS welcomes Terry Kurgan to celebrate the publication of her book 'Everyone is Present: Essays on Photography, Memory and Family'

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground
Ground Floor, South Wing, UCL
United Kingdom

Terry Kurgan’s book begins with a family snapshot made by her Polish grandfather in 1939 on the eve of the war. Presenting this evocative image as a repository of multiple histories—public, private, domestic, familial and generational—she sets off on a series of meditations on photography that give us startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, what provocations they contain. Each essay takes up the thread of the story of her family’s epic journey across Europe as they flee—country by country—Nazi occupation, until they reach Cape Town, South Africa. But Kurgan takes detours, circles back, diverts attention elsewhere, enriching and also disrupting the narrative with digressions on the way Google has changed our relationship to photography, on her grandfather’s eloquent daily journals, on the shipboard flirtations of her fascinating grandmother, on vanity, on self representation, on loss and return, home and exile. Kurgan’s richly satisfying essays are part memoir, part travelogue, part analysis and they demonstrate her sophisticated understanding of a medium that has long engaged her as an artist.

“Kurgan has achieved something rare in this book: a truly dynamic fusion of text and image. She brings a deep knowledge of craft to everyday images, whether she’s teasing fugitive meanings from a creased pre-war snapshot or taking the pulse of an apparently impersonal digital image. The result is both a moving family memoir and an illuminating reflection on photography and memory.”  
Ivan Vladislavić, author of Portrait with Keys and Double Negative, Wits University.

“On the basis of a detailed war-time diary and a collection of family photos left by her grandfather, Terry Kurgan builds a gripping family memoir/detective story that takes us from Poland through Romania, Turkey and India to South Africa. Balancing her account of this global Jewish refugee journey with illuminating microscopic readings of seemingly ordinary images, Kurgan invites us into the intimacies of family in conditions of extremity, even as she zooms out again to explore the revelatory power and the frustrating limits of photographs in our search for the textures of past lives.”
Marianne Hirsch, author of The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust, Columbia University.


Terry Kurgan lives and works in Johannesburg. Her artistic interest is in photography, and in the complex and paradoxical nature of all photographic transactions. She explores this through a multi-media body of artwork that foregrounds intimacy, pushing at the boundaries between ‘the private’ and ‘the public’ in the South African public domain. Her projects have been sited in spaces as varied as a maternity hospital, a public library, a popular Johannesburg shopping mall, an inner city park and a prison. Kurgan received a BAFA from the California School of Arts in San Francisco, an MFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand. She’s been awarded many fellowships, grants and prizes, and has exhibited and published broadly in South Africa and internationally. Hotel Yeoville was published by Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg in 2013, and recent exhibitions include: Collaboration. A Potential History of Photography, Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto (2018), Public Intimacy: Art And Other Ordinary Acts In South Africa, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA 2014); Nine Urban Biotopes: Negotiating the Future of Urban Living, Spreefeld, Berlin (2014); Sharp, Sharp Johannesburg, La Gaite Lyrique, Paris (2013); Public Art/Private Lives, Gallery AOP, Johannesburg (2013); and Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photographyat the V & A Museum, London (2012). She is currently Research Associate at the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at Wits University, and working with the other side of her family’s archive of journalsand photographs towards another work at the interface between art and literature.

The book is published by Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg.

All welcome. Please note that there may be photography and/or audio recording at some events and that admission is on a first come first served basis. Please follow this FAQ link for more information.