Tel Aviv at 100
I photograph in order to learn something new about what's in front of me. The process of photographing is, for me, one of discovering visual interest in the myriad forms presented to us, and of overcoming the habits that make our perceptions grow dull. Against Duchamp, I believe in retinal art, and attempt in my work to avoid preconceptions and formulas. For me, the visual is primary, and I expect any work of art, especially my own, to stand on its own visually, without recourse to an intellectual or even conceptual scheme. Following Duchamp, I do see in the Ready-made a paradigm for how one should approach photography, in the sense that photographing creates a new version of an existing subject. The act of framing transposes a commonplace object into a work of art, if done successfully, and this transposition is for me the point of photographing. This, then, to come without preconceptions and leave with a new way of seeing something old, summarizes my approach to photography.
In doing this, every square inch of the photograph is important. I want the viewer of my photographs to explore the whole composition, to take in the inter-relations and tensions inherent in the view I've chosen. In this sense, no part is more important than any other, and where something is placed relative to the frame is more important than what it is. The edges do just as much work, if not more, as the middle, and I pay special attention to what's placed on the edge, to the beginning and the end of the visual space. It is, in large part, this attention to the whole frame which coaxes the viewer, in turn, to navigate from one element to the next, and to then appreciate the visual relationships present.
This compositional approach is my initial motivation when photographing, and in my Tel Aviv work I wanted to use it as a prism through which I could get to know this particular place more clearly, more thoroughly, in a way that only photography allows one to do. The photographs I began to make were themselves the guide to what came next, as particular themes and visual tropes began to emerge through the process of photographing. I prefer to let the visual work of discovering a photograph guide my choices, rather than using a preconceived idea that is then illustrated by the work. My use of an 8x10 camera for this project served a dual purpose. On the one hand, it allowed me to see much more clearly every detail of the scene and to make very precise choices as regards the edges of the photograph. Secondly, the luminous quality of the resulting contact prints, together with the high level of detail present in such work perfectly reinforced my approach when photographing.
For a photograph to become a part of the final project it had not only to fulfill the above-mentioned compositional requirements, but also to offer the viewer (myself included) several layers of meaning. The form of many of these works perfectly represents many of the themes that engaged me throughout the project, such as the boundaries and obstacles people negotiate in their daily use of these spaces, the sense of cultural and iconographic layering, and the condensation in visual form of several historical layers, as if on an archeological excavation. It was very important to me that these themes and leitmotifs emerged through the process of photographing the city, and that they were discoveries for me, that I was learning something new about this place through this process.
As someone who was not born in Israel, but immigrated as an adult, the project served the further purpose of becoming intimate with the place, of getting to know it in detail and in a very personal way. I see in this series a kind of personalization of the city, a partial view that reveals to me, as much as to other people, what my relationship is to this place. It’s a partial view in the sense that it’s driven by compositional and photographic interests, but also because it’s an outsider’s view in many ways. The scenes I chose to photograph are not obvious landmarks, but rather the stuff one sees every day, the most banal of materials. And many of these views had interest for me precisely because of their banality, and the way this ordinariness says something about the place.