Last weekend an International Photography Festival got under way at the port in Jaffa. It will run from the 23rd April until the 7th May 2016. The exhibition is spread over a wide area within the port complex and the photographs are inside what appears to be old warehouses. There is a very comprehensive program of events featuring workshops, talks and dance performances planned to coincide with this festival. My husband and I visited this festival. My particular favourites were the thought provoking and challenging documentary style photographs of a Romanian called Mugur Varzariu. Here is an extract from his biography which was featured at the exhibition. " Mugur Varzariu, a documentary photographer, advocate of change, human rights defender and World Vision ambassador, was born in Bucharest in 1970. He studied Economics at the Academy of Economic Studies, graduated with an EMBA, spent three years in law school, and worked for more than fifteen years as a marketing strategist before deciding to dedicate himself to social work and documentary photography." I thought his biography was commendable and his photographs which were entitled "Roma Always" were a visual chronicle of events in the lives of the itinerant Roma people.
As well, I also liked the joint exhibition of a group of 12 photographers whose names are as follows: Dr. Amnon Duvdevani, Debbie Morag, Vered Sadot, Yoav Manor, Carmel Vernia, Miri Nagler, Matty Karp, Nathan Caspi, Atalia Katz, Dr. Zvi Laster, Dr. Rivka Hillel Lavian and Tali Idan. The joint collaboration of photographs in this particular exhibition was entitled, "Private Space" and it appeared to be the interpretation between the public and private lives of people and Dr. Amnon Duvdevani had even captured images of animals, lizards and birds who had made themselves at home in the unlikely man-made location of the concrete walls of an underpass.
I also liked the work of Matty Karp entitled, "Night Windows" featuring a high rise apartment building in New York with sheer glass windows. The people living in their respective apartments were really testing the boundaries between private and public. They were in the privacy of their own homes and yet they were exposed to the public through large aquarium type windows without curtains. As Matty Karp very keenly observed, this visual insight into people's private lives also enables us to see "the sense of loneliness and alienation of life in the big city. Modern architecture puts the residents of Manhattan in reproduced apartments, where they are exposed as if they were living in a doll house."
Then there was the very confronting photographs of a little girl by Vered Sadot who appeared to have a Tracheostomy (a surgically made hole that goes through the front of the neck and into the trachea/windpipe enabling a person to breathe). People who work in the medical profession either may or may not be phased by these photographs of the little girl with the Tracheostomy but for me it was difficult viewing. I felt incredibly sorry for the little girl who had to live with this contraption lodged into her neck. Yes, it was enabling her to breathe more easily but what an unnatural life for a little girl who ought to be playing with her friends and enjoying her childhood. Instead she cut a lonely figure slouched rather forlornly on a couch with the rooms in her house juxtaposed between as Vered Sadot also rightly observed, "part hospital-part home."
Then there was Yoav Manor's photograph with the accompanying explanation with a quote from Haim Hefer saying, "What does a man need? ... and a roof above his head, so it doesn't rain down on him." Yoav Manor goes on to say, "A roof above your head is the most basic need. It is the first element in a person's protected space, and if possible, it wouldn't hurt to squeeze together."
Lastly, I liked the exhibition which featured photographs under the sub-heading of "The Photographic Image As A Sheltered Space" and the insightful and thoughtful explanation by Menahem Goldenberg, Festival Philosopher. Here is an extract for your information, "Let's start with a simple basic fact: photography is defined by the frame. This is an ontological (that is, real) character of the photographic image, which also distinguish it from other images. In this sense there are two principal questions which organize the meaning in photography: first, who or what enters the photographic space (the frame)? (And it does not matter whether what enters this space is allowed into it or invited, or whether it imposes itself or pushed into the space accidentally). Second, where is that which entered the photographic space is located and in what relations it stands with other participants in the space? (Again, it does not matter whether the occupation of a place and the relations thus established are arbitrary or carefully planned." Then Goldenberg goes on to say, "We live in times where everyone seems to have a perspective and a point of view of things. Times in which 'showing things' is an act - or better an activity - mundane, almost obligatory, that finds no constraints or limitations due to preliminary requirements or conditions. It is an activity that challenges, ignores, and to some extent undermines the very notion of intimacy. Undoubtedly, though in a general sense, we can say that we live in a reality where we see more than we want, need, or ready and willing to see. Put differently, as far as the act of 'showing thing' is concerned the problem lies not in the fact that we are not seeing enough but rather in the fact that there are no limits to what we see nor to what is shown." I thought Menahem Goldenberg's accurate and perceptive summary of not only photography but the times we are currently living in which enables people to record and take photographs with great ease and share them on social media was particularly profound. I hope you will be able to go to the exhibition and see these works and many others which are on show until the 7th May. As the English idiom goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words" and the photographs in this festival certainly testify to that.