A rare insight into the lives and pilgrimage to Poland by ultra-Orthodox Jews is on display at the ACT Jewish Community Centre gallery.
The exhibition, Bracha - Blessing: Back to Polish Shtetls, is made up of portraits taken by Polish photographer Agnieszka Traczewska and gives insight into the secluded Hasidic Jewish community.
"It documents the return of these communities to visit their ancestral sites in Poland," ACT Jewish Community program director Tamsin Friedland says.
"They were nearly completely wiped out in the Holocaust and there aren't any actual permanent communities still living in Poland, but all of their religious sites are in Poland as well as in other countries. They come back from all around the world to visit these ruins, these ancient graveyards and tombs and synagogues.
"It's all so intimately connected with the trauma of the Holocaust and for us, we feel that it's a hopeful story because it shows that life continues and cultures weren't exterminated. Out of this great tragedy those communities of endured and it's kind of amazing that they're there and they're able to go back and visit."
It's an exhibition that has been years in the making as Traczewska isn't Jewish herself. The photographer became interested in the culture and their pilgrimages to the ruined synagogues and graveyards after seeing the distinctively dressed Jewish people in different parts of Poland.
She then took the time to gain the community's trust before capturing the photographs.
"They don't traditionally like being documented or exposed in that way, particularly the women," Friedland says.
"She got to know these communities and formed bonds with them and there are even some portraits of women in the exhibition which is unusual because they have this idea of being modest and part of that is that they don't necessarily like being represented like that.
"It's just very moving, portraits of a community that most people will never meet, and wouldn't know anything about. Even a lot of Jewish people would know very little about them. I know, as someone who is Jewish, I would be interested in portraits like that of a community that I didn't know, some ethnic, religious community where I didn't know they existed, what they believe."
The exhibition, which has previously shown at the United Nations in New York, Dusseldorf, Germany and Tel Aviv, Israel, was brought to Canberra by the Polish Embassy.
It is also the first exhibition held at the ACT Jewish Community since it opened its new multimillion-dollar wing and will be on show for the remainder of the year.
"We want to continually have high calibre exhibitions there because it's a lovely space and we have the Jewish Museum here as well," Friedland says.
"We had - before COVID - lots of school groups come through and we're just really keen to get the word out there and have more people engaged with us because we want to engage more with the broader community not just with the 1000 or so Jews here in Canberra."