In 2016, photographer and artist Sarah Mei Herman found a box of photos taken by her grandfather Mordechai. Together with his youngest brother Jehuda, he ran a photography studio in Kaunas, Lithuania before the Second World War. The studio was called Foto Germano, Lithuanian for Herman, and specialised in family portraits. Herman recognises her own work in the portraits that her grandfather made in the 1920s and 1930s: the composition, the still faces and subdued looks.
The discovery was the starting point for an investigation into the pre- and post-war history of the Germano family. During a stay in Kaunas, Herman conducted archival research and explored the places where her family members lived and worked. In 2016, she visited Tonia Levin (1925-2019), the daughter of her grandfather’s eldest brother. At that time, she was the only living family member who had personal experience of the photo studio. Levin barely survived the Holocaust and moved to Israel after the war.