The odor of pomegranates, ca. 1900

Zaida Ben-Yusuf :: The odor of pomegranates, ca. 1900. Platinum photographic print mounted on dark green paper. Description: Photograph shows a woman wearing a long flowing gown, standing in front of curtain, facing left, holding a pomegranate. | src Library of Congress
The Odor of Pomegranates is a departure from the professional photography that typically occupied Ben-Yusuf’s attention. More than simply a portrait, the image represents Ben-Yusuf’s effort to use photography to explore a larger theme: in this case, the seductiveness and potential danger of something desirous. The pomegranate provides the key to unlocking the work’s symbolism. An odorless fruit, the pomegranate figures prominently in the mythological story of Persephone, whose act of eating one given to her by Hades bound her for part of the year in the underworld over which Hades reigned. Ben-Yusuf depicts her Persephone-like figure contemplating the fruit before her. Its “odor” relates not to its smell, but rather the tantalizing expectation that precedes the act of consuming it. Ben-Yusuf was proud of this image and exhibited it on repeated occasions. [quoted from NPG]