Hands to the Side: My Comments as a Participant in Spencer Tunick’s Naked Sea Photo Shoot

Early Saturday, in Mineral beach in the Dead Sea, a thousand Israelis shed their clothes and participated in a massive naked photo session for US artist and photographer Spencer Tunick. As one of the participants, I thought I’d share a few short comments:

[singlepic id=296 w=300 h=450 float=right]1. This was a life affirming event, in which total strangers gathered in one place in order to achieve a mutual goal of capturing a fleeting moment of truth.

2. This was not a life changing moment, nor was it about embracing your inner nudist, naturist – or vegan, for that matter. This was about admitting that underneath our clothes we are all naked, and while all of the participants will get back to dressing themselves for work the next day, for two hours on a Saturday morning, hundreds of people said ‘Hey, this is me. This is what I look like today‘.

3. This was the opposite of individualism, as each participant was insignificant on their own. This was not about me or about you, as none of us mattered; Your name or social status made no difference; We came as individual people with the aim of becoming one thousandth of a group. You could literally feel the anonymity in the air.

4. This was an Israeli version of a Spencer Tunick photo shoot, and so you just need to accept the fact that the serene floating in the sea would be interrupted by motorized parachutes, or that the EMT team would be less than eager to clean up a bleeding, albeit minor, cut since they ‘already locked the doors of the ambulance’.

One last comment:
Commanding a thousand Israelis to “put your hands to the side” gets you the opposite result, as that phrase means the exact opposite in English as it does in Hebrew (Yada’im latsdadim).

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Unintended Art: Self-Portrait With a Commode

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Searching for furniture on Yad2, Israel’s leading classified ads website, I stumbled upon this photo: A young woman can be seen standing in front of the mirror, trying to capture a good angle of this nice three drawer commode – but unbeknownst to her, she actually captured what seems to be an authentic moment in time, a quasi-voyeuristic look of this ordinary looking family.
The younger woman, a tech-savvy daughter maybe, is so focused at the task at hand, she probably doesn’t notice the older woman, her mother probably, sitting in her nightgown on the bed.
Was mom aware of her role in this classified ad? Has she given permission for anyone and everyone to gaze at her in her unmentionables? Removed from the Yad2 website, this photo looks more and more like a self-portrait, or a family portrait, and I would not hesitate to say, a good one at that.

Photographer Cindy Sherman’s Muse Appears in Jerusalem

After two gruelling days working an assembly line like photography studio, I have found renewed faith in the photography of children. Trying to avoid kitsch as much as possible, I worried our cooperation with Jerusalem’s Train Theatre might prove to be void of artistic merit, but boy was I wrong. Yes, many of the photos were nothing more than Jewish kids in Purim costumes smiling for mommy – but from time to time, when not pressed to fake-smile, something much deeper and profound emerged.

Following is the photo I liked most out of these two days of work. My friend Guy hinted that I might like this photo because on a subconscious level it reminds me of photographer Cindy Sherman’s work. What do you think?

[singlepic id=158 w=525 h=350 float=center]Hagigit – Purim Spiel Still #9313 – 2009

[singlepic id=162 w=525 h=418 float=center]Cindy Sherman – Untitled Film Still #21 – 1978

It’s Twilight, It’s Darkening, It’s Winter in Tel Aviv

Our friends over at studioIG.com have sent us a fisheye look of South Tel Aviv taken last week:
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I cannot put my finger on it, but there is something mesmerizing about this photo. The cloudy sky, the rickety rooftops, or is it the distorted view? Whatever it is, after staring at it for a couple of seconds, I felt it might be a good time to get back to taking photos and give readymade art a rest for a while.

Hagigit Ends the Summer with A Blast at the Jerusalem Theatre

[singlepic id=95 w=300 h=400 float=right]Hagigit, the artists collective I co-founded, was invited to participate in the End of Summer events by the Jerusalem Theatre. We spent the last few weeks in preparation for the three day event, our biggest event to date both logistically and in terms of crowd participation. We set up our famous outdoors studio, packed it with theatre-related props, set up a work station consisting of 6 laptop computers, 2 photo printers, a wireless router, and one strategically placed electric fan.

The whole shebang worked like so: people could play dress up and don outrageous costumes, three Hagigit members staged the studio scenes and photographed them, another member was in charge of downloading the photos and distributing them using our wireless network. Most of the photos were instantly printed by another member, and a few were manipulated using Photoshop by two other Hagigit members.
Myself? I was in charge of hooking up to the jumbotron, displaying the photos taken and playing the Photoshop screen-captures, to the amusement of the crowd.

Here is a short movie consisting of photos taken at the studio:

And here is an example of the sort of Photoshop work that was done in real time, played here at 8 times the original speed:

…oh, and we got mentioned here and here.

These Are Your Citizens – Tell Them Thank You for Coming to My Birthday Party

Barbecuing in a nature reserve is generally considered Israel’s national pastime, and from the look of it, the secret ingredient is placing the grill near thousands of your fellow Israelis. The more crowded the place, the tenderer the meat gets. Sacher Park in Jerusalem is just a big patch of grass within the capital city, but nevertheless thousands of Israelis choose to celebrate holidays by having a picnic there.

Hagigit  , the Jerusalem artists’ cooperative I co-founded, erected its second outdoors photo studio in Sacher Park on Israel’s 60th anniversary, for that very reason. It was an opportunity to document a cross section of the people of Israel, and we had a lot of fun doing it. Here is a sample of the photos we took. Clicking a photo will open a larger version:

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Hagigit group was founded by eight graduates of the Musrara photography school in Jerusalem. The group’s main goal is to create and encourage interdisciplinary art activities in Jerusalem, including exhibitions, street performances and cooperation with artists in different mediums and with the local community under the belief that art should not be confined to a small section of the public.

Library of Progress

I often criticize the Israeli Internet for being stuck in the 1990’s and not getting the jist of the net’s knowledge sharing nature. So much so, that I started thinking that maybe I come off as a crazed reprover in the gate, drooling and mumbling incoherently something about Web 2.0. Could it be that everyone in Israel is wrong? Is sharing not a Jewish trait?

Case in point: There are three extensive photo archives in Israel, the National Photo Collection, The Central Zionist Archives, and the Jewish National Fund – and every time I search one of them, I cannot help but wonder: Is that all I get?
A crummy search engine user interface – is that all I get?
A crummy photo-not-available-online result – is that all I get?
A crummy purchase-reproduction-by-email-only* – is that all I get?

Well, today, courtesy of the US Library of Congress I got my sanity check, and it came back in my favor:
The Library of Congress, established more than two centuries ago, is young enough an establishment to decide to upload all of its 14 million photos to Flickr – for you and me to use freely. Let me repeat that for you, to make sure you and me get it: I read today, on the library’s blog (that’s right!), that they started a pilot (currently only 3000 photos) in which users can freely search, download, caption and tag all the historical photos from the archives of the LOC.
Still waiting for the other shoe to drop? Looking for an angle? Trying to find out if the LOC have a secret money making mechanism? Matt Raymond, Director of Communications for the library, details their evil knowledge-sharing/knowledge-seeking scheme:

[singlepic id=21 w=320 h=240 float=right]We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

 

Why must we wait a decade before web trends make Aliyah?

Hat tip to TGrayImages.

* The Jewish National Fund is the only one that offers online photo purchasing.

Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Israeli architect and part-time blogger Sharon Raz meticulously documents decaying buildings all over Israel in his incredible Disappearing Architecture website (which has a less than incredible navigation interface).

Decaying Hadar Cinema in Haifa | Disappearing-Architecture.co.il

Here are four photo essays he posted documenting the decadence in Israeli cinemas (#1, #2, #3, #4). Living in a state that has a short history, with citizens that have a short memory, I found his ongoing project nothing short than brilliant.

If You Happen To Be At The End of the World And You Are Thirsty For Some Contemporary Art

Graduates Exhibit at the Israeli Open Museum of PhotographyI would not go as far as saying Tel-Hai is located at the end of the world, more like Tel-Hai is where you stop and ask for directions to the end of the world. Located close to Israel's northern border, this historic site features the only photography museum in Israel, The Open Museum of Photography.

Currently the museum is hosting its annual exhibit consisting of works by recent graduates of Israel's leading photography institutions, including Musrara, from which I recently graduated.

Two of my art works are displayed at that exhibit: a video work called 'Things I Needed To Hear' and this photo featuring two sisters taken in Laos in 2002:

Sisters by Shahar Golan

Location:
The Open Museum of Photography
Tel-Hai Industrial Park
Israel

Dates:
November 1 – December 30, 2007

Hours:
Sunday-Thursday: 09:00-16:00
Friday: Closed
Saturday: 10:00-17:00