For the last year and a half, we drove by an open field peppered with what looked like sculptures, saying sometime we should go see what it there. Last Saturday, the first sunny winter day in a while, the three of us ( the dog was more than happy to join us) finally did it. I did not expect much, and maybe because of this the combination of the huge sculptures made of natural materials combined with the mid-day light filtered by the clouds took me by surprise. The world seemed ready for me to just click the shutter. And I did.
fine art photography
I have a problem photographing strangers. I feel uncomfortable asking permission (I would not like strangers to photograph me …), and “stealing” an image without permission is a no-no. Treating others as ‘strange beings’ photographed like animals for a National Geographic features - also makes me cringe. So usually, when photographing on a trip, I stick to places and things. And yet, sometimes ….
September 2018, Greece. The mountainous part, small to tiny villages, some of them untouched by tourists yet. We are a small group travelling together for 10 days, sampling the tastes of rural Greece. It’s afternoon, we are on our way to the hotel, stopping for a short break at Kastoria, a village on the lake shore. We spend some time in an old house turned museum. Just next to the entrance, an older lady is knitting. She is just beautiful. Timeless. Untouched by the 5G antennas that no one knows how will they impact us, from the Supreme Court nominees. From the everyday noises that fill our lives. Every hour does seem to have 60 full minutes here, and she seems to make the best of each one of them. I want to take a picture of her, but there are 20 people with cameras around me, I am not going to turn her into a zoo animal. So I give up, and go into the house. When we come out of the museum, the knitting lady is not by herself, two other people joined her. They make such a beautiful picture. Temptation mounts. Our group starts walking down the alley. I stay behind. In a wordless pantomime, I ask them if I can take their picture. The woman nods, seems surprised by my question. I click the shutter then smile bowing my head, thanking them. “You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it.” So true.
In 2017 I started playing with Chemigrams. This was a natural part of a growing tendency toward abstraction coupled with an attraction to processes where the outcome can be directed but not controlled. Neither photographs nor drawings, Chemigrams inherit from both worlds. Created on black and white photographic paper, using traditional photographic chemicals, ingredients from the kitchen, art materials and light, the images are coerced into existence by painting, spraying and/or dipping the paper into the different solutions.
In 2018, as I started to prepare for a trip to Greece, I stumbled upon a lecture on Greek philosophy and encountered for the first time the notion of 'Apeiron' which resonated very strongly with the work I was doing in the studio. The result is my first Chemigram squence - 'Apeiron.'
Apeiron (ἄπειρον) is a Greek word meaning "(that which is) unlimited," "boundless," "infinite," or "indefinite." Anaximander, a 6th century BC Greek philosopher, believed the beginning or ultimate reality (arche) is eternal and infinite, or boundless (apeiron), subject to neither old age nor decay. As such, Apeiron can be understood as a sort of primal chaos out of which everything is created as well as the destination of everything once it ceases to exist. (Wikipedia, abbreviated)
See the complete 'Apeiron' sequence here
Today is not his birthday, or the day he passed away. Just a regular day on the calendar, almost sixteen years after his body left this world. And yet, without thinking much, I create this Chemigram. I miss you dad.
The very first image I created in the darkroom was a photogram (image created by placing objects directly on photographic paper - no camera involved). This was the winter semester at SMC (Santa Monica College) in 2016, and we spent the mornings, 3-4 days a week in the darkroom. I remember thinking I could play with photograms forever, but of course after one week we moved on and there was never time to go back and play. The second semester, in the advanced darkroom class I saw my first Lith print and it was love at first sight. The silent waiting for the image to emerge, watching the developer tray for 5, 10 minutes, sometimes more, not really knowing what will appear. The closest thing to magic I ever experienced.
When we returned to Israel, we improvised a home darkroom (my pedantic French professor from Photo 1 would kill me if he saw it ...). Part in the studio, part in the bathroom, moving between the rooms with prints in a light proof bag....unconventional - but it works. There was nothing preventing me from playing with photograms now ....but I didn't. Waiting for "interesting" ideas meant I was doing nothing. A few months ago I placed a few weeds collected on the morning walk in a set of 5 small glass bottle, and I remember thinking this may be nice to photograph. Yesterday, after finishing the initial Lith print tests of two new images, I grabbed the bottles and placed them under the enlarger. Why not try? And here it is, at long last, a Lith photogram. Unforced, unrestrained, unpredictable, unique. Reality as real as it gets, yet unrecognizable despite the fact we look at it daily. "The only journey is the one within" said Rilke long time ago, could this be the start of a new one for me?
Art inspired by a song. Another first - Archival pigment print with beads embroidery. This piece will be part of a coming exhibit at Universal Art gallery in Tel Aviv next month together with other art pieces inspired by Noam's beautiful songs.
The song that inspired it (my translation from Hebrew)
Dancing all by myself, lyrics by Noam Horev
I’ll be back soon, just passing through all the continents
Gathering feelings, sensations, blurred images
Far away, beyond the sea, places I’ve never been to
I see the world in new ways, ways I do not understand yet
Gathering pieces of the sky just because
The world rests in my hands
Learning how to caress the wounds
I suddenly remember, how to dance all by myself
In the empty spaces of the heart
Drawn to the fire, to the whispers within
Getting out, burning bright again
Taking the time to get ready, to connect, to grow up
To travel and never come back
Walking the newly discovered paths of the soul
Where I never dared to venture
How can I suddenly be so complete
Food for thought while listening to Miri Mesika singing this beautiful song.
Here, in Israel we have too many sad songs. One that is particularly touching goes something like that (my translation):
How should I bless the child? asks the angel.
I blessed him a smile brighter than light, seeing eyes and a feeling heart. Dancing feet and a soul to remember the tune. Hands to collect seashells and ears to listen to big and small
How should I bless the child? asked the angel. I gave him all I could. A smile, a song and feet to dance. A gentle hand, a thriving heart. What more can I bless him with
....and the song end with:
If only you blessed him with life.
Two days ago, 25 youngsters aged 17 to 18 were caught in the midst of a late spring flood in the Arava, the desert in the southern part of Israel. Salt of the earth, these youngsters were about to embark on an extra year of study after high school. Learning to be better people, better leaders, know their country and people better. Study and volunteer. This was supposed to be the trip when they get to know each other. For ten of them, nine girls and a boy - who died because he kept helping his friends instead of saving himself - it was the last trip. They were truly blessed with everything every parent could want for their child. They were bright, and loving, and best in their class, volunteering for years in organizations helping disabled children. They were blessed with beauty and a sense of humor and the biggest, gentlest hearts. If only they were blessed with life.
The last few months, I have been collaging camera-less Lumen prints (prints done on photographic paper using the sun) with digital images, trying to give voice to the connection I feel with the earth. To test the waters, I submitted one of these images ( "Of Earth and Sun" below) to a call for entry that asked for images "that hide a secret". The image was accepted, and is hanging now in a beautiful gallery perched on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
Last Saturday, I spent few hours in the gallery, showing the art to visitors. One lady seemed to have a particular interesting way of interpreting the art pieces and after talking about a few of them, we stopped by "Of Earth and Sun" and I asked her what does she think it is about. "Well, this piece is not about logic or understanding" she said "it is about feeling and connecting." I could not hope for a better comment. Yes!!!
"Come, said the wind to the leaves one day,
Come o'er the meadows and we will play."
In a photography workshop yesterday, the lecturer said that what distinguishes photography from other visual arts is the necessity of light and the lack of total control over what will be in the image. The right words at the right time for me. The second month into playing with new ideas. Becoming an alchemist, a child and an explorer. "If I were a leaf"
Almost six weeks since I last posted. Not from lack of events, quite the opposite: too many to choose from. Reclaiming our house and recreating the garden, Critical Mass Top 50 happened as well as preparing for a group exhibit in Boston and the first exhibition here, in Israel.
Not enough quiet time to reconnect with the land, the place, me. Somewhere I read that 'Planting flowers means growing roots'. I am growing mine.
What's in an image? What do you see?
Roots. Are they edible? A harvest of sorts or overgrown weeds?
Hands. Presumably the gardener. Big hands. Is this a woman or a man? Is he/she proudly displaying the results of their labor?
While each viewer will create their own story, here is what this image means to me. We are back in Israel, reconnecting with our roots. for me, a big part of this is returning to the garden I left behind two years ago. It is heartbreaking to see it invaded by aggressive, out of control plants to the point where some think it should be scratched, the soil replaced (or worst yet, poisoned to kill all invaders) and start from scratch. Ten years of work down the drain. I refuse to accept, for now, while evaluating the options, I fight the invaders. I know it is too little too late, but I still spend a couple of hours the other day on my hand and knees, digging and trying to uproot the weeds. The garden was always "my place". My husband helps carry the compost, but other than that, he just takes pride in "his gardener wife". Yesterday, he saw me fighting what seemed to be small nice leaves that turned our to be connected to a carrot like root ten times their size. Without thinking, he picked up the fork and started digging. He digs, I pull. It's the eve of Yom Kippur, people dressed in white, going to the synagogue - we are wearing shorts, dirty and sweaty, fighting the weeds. When we were done, I asked him to wait, grabbed my camera with my favorite 50mm prime lens and took a few photographs of his hands holding the uprooted plants. To me, this image speaks volumes about what's below the surface, a portrait of our relationship.
It is time. Closing the door on the last 3 years. It is right, which does not make it easy. Rooms filled with color, books, cats and life stand empty. Filled with memories and sunshine. How full can emptiness be.
In the three years I've been photographing, there were a handful of times when I lost myself in the photographed object. I know this sounds weird, so let me try to describe such a moment in a non-poetic way ...
Yesterday, when passing by the kitchen window, I saw the magnolia tree in our front yard projects interesting shadows on the wall separating our building from our neighbors'. I grabbed the camera, went outside, and standing less than 2 feet from the wall started to compose images out of the patches of shadow and light. As there was a little bit of wind and the sun was constantly changing position, the light forms changed all the time. For what must have been at least half an hour, I moved a few inches at a time and ... created 70(!) images of a very ordinary concrete wall. A few people passing by asked if I am trying a new camera. Nope, I was not. I was getting lost in the shadows of the magnolia tree.
...and this seems to be one of those times when the spirits chose me ... A last visit to the Arboretum in LA before returning to Israel. Soaking in ideas, getting ready to renovate my own garden. Imprinting images in memory and on film. Gardens are always the places that's hardest for me to leave behind. To all the peacocks, trees and turtles, ponds and ducks, squirrels and spirits - farewell, I will miss you.
I've always struggled with taking pictures while travelling. On one hand it is nice to have visual memories to look at, on the other hand ....at best the photos look like nice postcards. They may show the place but do not show how I felt when I was there, so why not just buy a postcard?? So this time, when we went to Yellowstone for a week, I tried a different tactic. I took the digital camera, for the "inside the safety zone" pictures. The analog Mamiya medium format one, to work with and see what is it's "golden spot", where will it shine the most. And .... the Diana F+ camera that was gathering dust on the shelf after the 1st film I shot with it was a disaster. With the Diana, I decided to give up all caution and just play. Whenever something caught my eye - I captured it. Piling images one on top of the other, in the hope that the resulting image will not show "a thing" but the excitement and awe of being surrounded by such an abundance of life and beauty. We returned home, and scaredy cat that I am, I sent a few of the films to a lab for development (so I will not mess them all up...) and started to slowly develop the rest at home. Three done, three more to go. And trust me, the Diana will not gather dust on the shelf anymore ;)
How can one begin to understand the latest decision made by Donald Trump - abandoning the Paris climate agreement? Many people reacted with both words and acts. I am still too aggravated for words, and for now, I would like to remind the guys in the White House the words of John Muir:
The world, is ours to enjoy, to delight in, to cherish and to keep. So in a hundred years from now, our great grandchildren will still be able to walk in the shade of the great Redwoods, rather than jog on flood protection walls. Maybe this should have been a tweet rather than a blog post ...
For three days last week, I learned to speak Ballenesque. Taking a workshop with Roger Ballen is like learning a new visual language. I went to his workshop because I wanted to understand how his mind works. How does it give birth to such images. Well, no one (including Roger) really understand this, but after hearing him talk about his work a few threads emerged.
"I am a formalist" he said at the beginning of the first day, and indeed he is. Form is at the base of each one of his images. Lines and shapes are echoed, each squiggle has an aesthetic reason. Form creates meaning rather than the other way around.
The prominence of background. Starting with wires and textures on the wall, moving on to drawings (created by him or others) and ending up with background becoming foreground in his latest series, Ballan's work has an unusual emphasis on the background. An interesting mirroring of the psychological tone of his work.
Like the background, drawing becomes more and more important in his work, unlike people that slowly disappear.
More than anything, he believes in constant, disciplined work. Each one of his projects took years to complete. Day after day after day after day of taking pictures would eventually result in new ideas. Tenacity, patience. No shortcuts. Slowly creating a new language: Ballenesque.
I have been photographing for two and a half years now. Have a great digital camera, good lenses. Got better at composing an image, at processing it....and yet, I never really understood what photography is. "Writing with light". Using light to turn a blank piece of paper into a printed image. Watching the image appearing on the paper, not line by line as it is spit out by the printer, but slowly taking shape under the yellow darkroom lights. Dodging and burning are no longer done by hitting a key on the computer. They shed their digital guise and return to their origin - manipulating light in order to shape the image.
Six weeks in the darkroom, four days a week, three hours a day. Does is always work as I want it to? Nope. Can I better control the image digitally? You bet I can. But if you had a pill you could take instead of eating your favorite sushi. Faster, more efficient, same nutritional value, would you go for it?
The true alchemists do not change lead into gold, they change words. Sometimes, they use light to change it into images. Pure magic.
Yesterday, I spent the day at the annual PhotoLA - the biggest photography event in Los Angeles. Soaked in the work around me, enjoyed seeing my work on display. Such events allow me to climb a few more stairs, get a bit more perspective on the breath and depth of the world of photography. Every step mean the bar is set a little higher, making me want to become a better artist. Wandering around the labyrinth of booths, I stopped by the 21st editions' table. Last year they had on display Sally Mann's book, and for at least 10 minutes I was glued to the floor, barely daring to touch it. As she is one of my favorite photographers, I assumed this year I will be less inspired by their display. Boy, was I wrong.
On a small table, next to some of his prints, was Wynn Bullock's artist book (if anyone can gift me 18,000$ to add this to my art library, please let me know ...). "Relativity". Excerpts from Einstein's letters and Platinum prints of Bullock's magnificent work. A feast for the eyes, a real treasure. Below, two sample pages I shot with the iPhone. "Wood" print alongside Einstein's thoughts on "the common element in artistic and scientific experience" (text reproduced below), and another spread which includes one of my absolute favorite images.
"What do artistic and scientific experience have in common? Where the world ceases to be the scene of personal hopes, wishes, wants, where we face it as free creatures, admiring questioning, beholding, there we enter the realm of art and science. We do science when we reconstruct in the language of logic what we have seen and experienced; but when we communicate through forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind, yet we intuitively recognize them as something meaningful - then we are doing art. Common to both is the loving devotion, the being above the personal, removed from our will"
Oh, yeah. The bar jumped very high this time .....
I'm in Frankfurt, Germany now for almost 3 weeks. My mother in law, a beautiful human being, who you may know from my ongoing series "A portrait of shadows and light" fell and broke her leg. At the age of 94, this may be a minor surgery, but it is a major trauma. For the first time in my life I am aware to how fragile life is. Like the few leaves that hold on to the bare tree branches.
It is here, when I sit next to her that I realize how the will to live is what fills the frail body. When she is depressed, the light goes away from her eyes. When I say something that makes her laugh - her face seems to fill up, her eyes glow.
When I am not in the hospital, I spend most of the time in her small apartment. Photographing, writing, drawing. Capturing her presence around me even when she is not here.
She is better now. Just moved from the hospital to a "Parents home". Surrounded by family pictures, weekly news magazine and her favorite crossword book, she seems to be slowly getting back to herself.
Outside, there are fewer and fewer leaves on the trees. End of November.