Shift the focus

Photo exhibit zooms in on transformation in a changing world

PHOTO IS:RAEL moves forward with 8th festival, creating outdoor gallery in Tel Aviv’s Hamedina Square and online activities

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The spacious, grassy plaza of Tel Aviv’s Hamedina Square, known for its circular shopping street of high-end luxury stores, will host a kilometer-long wall of photographs as part of this year’s PHOTO IS:RAEL festival, held November 9 through November 21.

The annual festival, celebrating its eighth year, could have stayed online, showing its collection of works by hundreds of photographers, professional and amateur through digital means, said founder and director Eyal Landesman.

“There’s a lot of worries right now,” said Landesman. “But that’s why we’re doing it publicly and outside.”

During a Zoom press conference to show reporters the range of photographers and works and projects, Landesman gave a glimpse of some of the challenges in organizing this year’s PHOTO IS:RAEL, including finding a large enough outdoor space and solar lighting.

A work by American Armenian photographer Diana Markosian, which will be on display at the 8th PHOTO IS:RAEL festival, beginning November 9, 2020 (Courtesy Diana Markosian)

“This may be the biggest photography exhibit ever in Israel,” said Landesman.

This year’s topic, chosen prior to the coronavirus, was that of change and transformation — societal, personal and political. It was relevant before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Landesman, and even more so with the ongoing shifts and changes due to the coronavirus.

Norwegian photographer Jonas Bendiksen’s works will be on display at the 8th PHOTO IS:RAEL festival, beginning November 9, 2020 (Courtesy Jonas Bendiksen)

“We felt that even with everything, we would go on with it,” said curator Maya Anner. “We came up with our subject before the coronavirus and not all of the photographs deal with the coronavirus, which was important to us.”

The festival will open November 9 with an online conversation with UK photographer Martin Parr, held in collaboration with the British Embassy and British ambassador to Israel.

A work by Israeli photographer Nadav Kener, being exhibited at the 8th PHOTO IS:RAEL event, beginning November 9, 2020 (Courtesy Nadav Kender)

Other works by international photographers include Jonas Bendiksen’s “The Last Testament,” a project about people who believe they are Jesus, along with pieces by Gloria Oyazarbal, a Spanish photographer in Nigeria who focuses on feminist issues; Rafal Milach, a Polish photographer who works in collage; and Diana Markosian, an American Armenian photographer documenting the Armenian genocide.

Local photographers include Jim Hollander and Rina Castelnuovo and their projects, Beauty Matters and The Lonka Project; lawyer Dudi Tadmor, a former director general of the Israel Antitrust Authority and an accomplished photographer; and Nadav Kender who will unveil new works created in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

A photo collage work by Polish photographer Rafal Milach, part of the exhibits for PHOTO IS:RAEL, which begins November 9, 2020 (Courtesy Rafal Milach)

PHOTO IS:VOICE is the event’s social project curated by Ora and Amir Ben Yoram Dori, with exhibits showing projects completed during the last year with some 450 teenagers and adults from the fringes of Israeli society. The participants photograph themselves, making themselves heard in order to foment change in Israeli society.

“Photographed Connection” is the event’s empowerment program created for the senior citizen population, aiming to create a supportive system of online communities for the elderly who have been left isolated and disconnected from their normal flow of life and routine during COVID-19.

PHOTO IS:RAEL’s online program will include conversations, lectures and workshops and and is free of charge, although certain programs require pre-registration on the festival website.

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