Too Hard to Keep
Photograph from Jason Lazarus' Too Hard to Keep archive

Tucked away in a dusty album or on your digital camera, is there a photograph that you don’t want to look at, but can’t bear to get rid of?

This experience is the basis for artist Jason Lazarus’ Too Hard to Keep, an ongoing archive of images whose owners have opted to place them in the care of someone else. Lazarus began the archive in 2010, and it currently contains over 3000 photos, photo objects, digital files, and albums which have been exhibited all over the world, and will be shown at The Contemporary Jewish Museum starting on November 21.

Here's how to contribute:

  • Visit the exhibition Jason Lazarus: Live Archive and drop off your submissions at the museum.
  • Mail the photographs to the artist—Jason Lazarus, 810 N. Wood Apt. 3f, Chicago IL 60622. If the cost of shipping is prohibitive, email the artist to make arrangements.
  • Email digital images to with "THTK" in the subject line. After receiving confirmation, delete the files.
There are two types of submissions: public and private. Public photos are displayed facing outward, and private photos are displayed upside-down, with the image facing the wall. You don't need to provide a reason for your submission, just indicate its type when you submit.
Installation detail of Too Hard to Keep made entirely of private submissions

There are Jewish rituals for letting go, such as the tashlich service which asks you to symbolically wash away sins into a body of moving water. And then there is the use of a genizah, which is a place where broken holy objects are kept that can no longer be used, but are not permitted to be thrown away. Lazarus has created this sort of in-between space, and he is so invested in its value that he has declared it a lifelong commitment, and even lined up a friend to take over if he is not able to continue. Why is this project and the space it creates so important? In the artist's words:

"It is my hope that there is a sort of empowerment that comes out of the act of submitting, not only as a graceful way for the submitter to get rid of the image, but that its function then doubles as a way to talk about bigger notions of connectivity and technology, and imaging and memory, so that the image goes on to serve another purpose that’s more altruistic.”

Take inventory of the images in your life, and see if there's anything, sacred or profane, that belongs here.

Installation detail of Too Hard to Keep


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