||Courtesy of Bezalel, the Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem
Today's art photography in Israel addresses both the personal - probing questions of life and death, art and illusion - and the national/political. It is characterized by intimacy, restraint, and a preoccupation with the self; both a reaction to and an outgrowth of the romantic, informational style which dominated its early stages of development. In the mid-19th century, local photography was based largely on providing photographic services, concentrating on the depiction of holy places (mainly Christian) to sell as souvenirs to pilgrims and tourists. From 1880 onward, photographers began to document the development of the Jewish community in Palestine (Land of Israel), portraying the pioneers working the soil and building cities and towns through a heroic lens, oriented to a modern, secular ideology and the requirements of clients who used their pictures to further particular causes, such as the Jewish National Fund.
The country's development in its early years was faithfully recorded by a number of talented photojournalists, some still active today, including Tim Gidal, David Rubinger, Werner Braun, Boris Carmi, Zev Radovan, David Harris, and Micha Bar Am. Crossing the invisible boundary between 'photography as documentation' and 'art photography' are, among others, Aliza Auerbach, who concentrates on portraiture; Neil Folberg, Doron Horwitz and Shai Ginott, who focus on nature; David Darom, an expert underwater photographer; and Dubi Tal and Mony Haramati, a team specializing in aerial photography.
Several important venues for displaying photographic work have come into being in Israel, foremost among them being the photography biennale at Mishkan Le'Omanut in Kibbutz Ein Harod and the new Museum of Photography at Tel Hai in the northern Galilee.
In recent years, as photography as a pure artistic medium has become a legitimate art form, a number of creative photographers have emerged, with the active support of galleries, museums, curators, and collectors both here and abroad. The most notable of these creative photographers is Adi Nes, (b,1966). Born in Kiryat Gat to a family of immigrants from Kurdistan and Iran, Nes started making waves in the 1990s with 'Soldiers.' This series explored questions of national identity and particularly Israeli male identity in a homoerotic, ambivalent, and highly insightful context. His work, Bible Stories, which takes Biblical figures and recreates moments of their narrative in a troubling, contemporary setting (homeless, poverty stricken), addresses the shift in Israeli society from socialist values to a modern capitalistic way of life. The recent sale of his piece, untitled, (The Last Supper) for $264,000 at Sotheby's annual sale of Jewish and Israeli art, is considered a turning point in the global appreciation of Israeli art.
Barry Frydlender's photography is composed of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of photographs seamlessly combined to create single images of unnerving precision, clarity, and perspective. His 2007 exhibition, 'Place and time,' featured recent photographs that explored the circumstance of contemporary Israel: an all-male gathering in an East Jerusalem caf?, devout Haredi Jews on an annual pilgrimage, and the forced evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. The exhibition was originally held in the Tel Aviv Museum Of Art, and then moved on to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the first solo exhibition of an Israeli artist at that museum.