I base my thesis on the recognition that our world is informed by images. Photographs represent and replace experiences, memories, landscapes and objects. Our past still exists in the form of photographs, and we will move on to a future which be is based on those photographs and the context through which we interpret them. Since the invention of the photograph, reality has become augmented by its own image. I am focusing my work at that point of friction.

—Yoav Friedlander

A moment in time is the movement of light—that ever-changing illumination photographers chase to expose the world. Israeli photographer Yoav Friedlander’s world is still life, miniature, and landscape photography, which serve as an exploration of his personal diaspora and a meditation on his growing up with constant war. Friedlander creates intricate miniatures and introspective landscapes that trigger his imagination and memories all the way from childhood to being a soldier in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces].

“We measure the greatest distance with light, and it is light that eventually defines the dimension of time that differentiates the day from the night, and today from tomorrow and yesterday. The past and present are defined by light, and photography was invented by recording light with the intent of recording time. The precise moment in time always manages to escape, leaving us with its burn marks as pictures. We don’t fix time, we hold its traces,” Friedlander says.

His miniatures are representative of his Israeli identity, and some of his miniatures have recreated everything from the “Terror Tunnels”—Hamas- built underground passages to traffic weapons after the siege of Gaza, to exploring his faith with Moses’ Burning Bush.

Burning Bush

Friedlander’s photograph “The Burning Bush, 2013” represents a key intersection between religion and historical fact—a subject which gave him the feeling of doubt about seemingly irreconcilable subjects. Yet the more he thought about Moses and the Burning Bush as both historical fact and miracle, the more he found that this project helped him tie his identity together.

“I decided to recreate the burning bush, because I conceived it as a very photographic miracle, almost a photograph that had never been taken yet had been passed on as a fact. There was something about how visually incomprehensible the story of the bush was, of being burning and maintaining its green color that had inspired me.

“Keep in mind: being Jewish means that we were commanded not to make images, sculptures or even masks, as all of the above are profane and result in us worshipping false gods (and ourselves). Therefore, remaking the burning bush would be the worst thing I could have possibly done in that regard.”

Of course, he couldn’t have known what was going to happen next. He set up his camera, plate and a green bonsai tree that he doused in fuel and lit on fire. Friedlander captured his image of a burning bush but when he extinguished the fire, the tree still remained green. He says it was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of his life—leaving him conflicted yet also “open-minded about the contradictions we find in everyday life.”

Chasing Time

“The moment of capture for me is a moment of a struggle with time. I always feel like I am running out of the time I’ve been given, and that everything is changing. Even buildings and mountains seem to be rushing, almost escaping the moment I am wishing to capture. I feel a lot of tension in regard to the ‘precise moment,’ and it is part of the reason why I don’t photograph people (usually),” he says.

The impatience of chasing light, and even waiting for it, is what we as photographers constantly struggle with. We hurry up and wait for the decisive moment of a moving subject, or how the light falls through the clouds on the side of a mountain, etc. Whatever that precise moment is, his moment of capture is defined by an uncertainty which he says supersedes his own idea of the “‘decisive moment.”’

“The actual moment of pressing the shutter almost feels as if something is going to change in the frame, the cable release feels like it has the power to designate an explosion. You are not looking through the camera, but instead at what you are photographing. There is a feeling going on saying, ‘this is it,’ ‘this is the moment,’ ‘no regrets,’ and then you release the shutter and if the speed is slow enough you can at least hear the shutter suspension mechanism… With the view camera, because it is so slow, it almost feels as if it ignores the idea of the decisive moment, as if the camera doesn’t care that it is urgent for you to take the shot, and it wouldn’t care if you had released the shutter a moment later,” he says.

“The problem with photography is that it is more than art. I am not saying more important, but just more in general. Almost everyone from the average person, the scientist, the graphic designer, fashion, commercial users, and artists use the medium in a similar way but for different applications. The line between secular and sacred are so thin and blurred that it is frightening to confidently determine what part, or use of the medium, is art and what part isn’t.

“Photography is a medium, a vehicle for art. Art is not sacred, it is not absolute, it is not owned by people with money nor by the artists who make it. Photography is not that young anymore, and as it grows older it seems to me that this debate will lose its power. For myself, I am not sure that I am making art, but if what I am making is under the same category with the people whose work I admire, and what they are making is art, then I am going the right direction.”

—Adam T. Crawford, Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Precise-Moment.com

Adam T. Crawford is a seasoned photographer & journalist and has been a staff editor at various magazines in the United States. Adam’s current role is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Precise Moment magazine, an online photography magazine with long-form articles that contextualize the modern landscape and philosophy of photography.