Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Israel: An exploration of people, culture, and conflict

I am not about to write a political piece and while yes, I do have strong opinions, this is more about a photographic approach to documenting a country that I have personal ties.

When I went to Israel this summer, I packed 4 cameras: a digital Nikon D300, Zenza Bronica Medium format film camera, an auto-focus film Nikon SLR, and a Yashica TLR Medium format film camera. In the end, I ended up using the medium format cameras the most because they were light and the Yashica was particularly quiet and unsuspecting. With film cameras, I make each photo count and when I got my film returned to me after development, I was thoroughly please with the shots I made.

Lesson: Bring at most two cameras - one if possible. It's awful to have to carry a bag around if you don't have to!

My goal was to capture the heart of the country. In order to capture the heart of the country, I needed to capture those every day moments of normalcy. As a tourist, it's not an easy thing to distinguish between what's normal interaction and what false interaction. The citizens respond differently when they're walking up and down the street than when you are at a merchant's store. Living in one neighborhood allowed me to really get a feel for the area and the people who constitute it. I knew what was happening and when - as if it were my neighborhood back home.

Lesson: If you want to capture who someone really is, you might just have to get to know them.

Capturing the well-known pictures of the Islamic dome in Jerusalem wouldn't have done this project justice. If I am only showing you what you have already seen, then I am not contributing to expanding your perspectives. I know I needed people to see just what a normal country is so that when you look at my book, you can "Hmm... this reminds me of where I live or place I know."

Lesson: Contribute - show a side that usually isn't seen.

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