Through the lens, photographer finds solace in the land
search

Through the lens, photographer finds solace in the land

Raised in the shadow of tragedy, Tal Paz-Fridman uses his camera to seek peace. His photos resonate with others, too

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

  • Tal Paz-Fridman's 'The Uniqueness of Waves XXV,' taken at dusk at the Tel Aviv port; for this photographer, the series is a practice of photographic meditation - an attempt to calm the inner waves with awareness of the here and now (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    Tal Paz-Fridman's 'The Uniqueness of Waves XXV,' taken at dusk at the Tel Aviv port; for this photographer, the series is a practice of photographic meditation - an attempt to calm the inner waves with awareness of the here and now (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • 'The Uniqueness of Waves XV,' from Tal Paz-Fridman's series about the sea (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    'The Uniqueness of Waves XV,' from Tal Paz-Fridman's series about the sea (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • 'Winter Surfing II,' taken at Tel Baruch Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    'Winter Surfing II,' taken at Tel Baruch Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • One of Tal Paz-Fridman's nature works, this one is called 'The Tree Top II' (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    One of Tal Paz-Fridman's nature works, this one is called 'The Tree Top II' (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • Cranes flying over the Hula Lake Park (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    Cranes flying over the Hula Lake Park (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • One of Tal Paz-Fridman's works of people, titled 'Pure Joy' showing how people look when they interact with the natural world. 'It always amazes me how small we are compared to our world and how important it is to protect our environment, far more than any difference in opinion, argument, or local conflict.' (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    One of Tal Paz-Fridman's works of people, titled 'Pure Joy' showing how people look when they interact with the natural world. 'It always amazes me how small we are compared to our world and how important it is to protect our environment, far more than any difference in opinion, argument, or local conflict.' (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • From Tal Paz-Fridman's series of nature works, this one of the mountains of the Judean Desert (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    From Tal Paz-Fridman's series of nature works, this one of the mountains of the Judean Desert (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • Another work from Tal Paz-Fridman's series in the Judean Desert (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    Another work from Tal Paz-Fridman's series in the Judean Desert (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
  • The Mediterranean sunset and a person on a standup paddle board (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)
    The Mediterranean sunset and a person on a standup paddle board (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)

I’d been searching for years for a piece of familiar but affordable artwork to hang above the living room couch, when I stumbled upon Tal Paz-Fridman’s stunning images on Artfully Walls, an online art and curating service.

His name sounded Israeli and his photos of iridescent blue Mediterranean waves, black-and-white leaves fluttering against a white sky, a child playing in the sea, resonated deeply, reflecting images and places that I recognized.

Two prints of delicate, fern-like leaves are now hanging in my living room, but I was still curious about the artist, whose prints featuring Israeli flora and fauna, as well as Hercules planes shooting across the sky, were available on several decorating websites, including Pottery Barn Kids.

It took a few months to convince Paz-Fridman to be interviewed, although he wrote back right away that he has “a rich life story that’s rooted deeply in the country’s history.”

As it turns out, it was the tragedy of Tal Paz-Fridman’s early life that brought him to the camera lens.

Paz-Fridman’s father, Amiram, was killed while serving as a captain in a paratrooper unit during the Battle of the Sinai in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Paz-Fridman was 6 months old at the time.

The battle was a major turning point in the conflict. It also left few soldiers or officers alive to give witness to what happened that day.

“I saw a picture of him a few months ago, of the evening before they went out,” said Paz-Fridman. “He was 26, and to think about it, knowing that someone had to lead, that it was going to be him, and to think about the process of what he was thinking, that night, to bring hundreds of soldiers to that place.”

Amiram Fridman, Tal Paz-Fridman’s father, killed in the line of duty during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (courtesy, Tal Paz-Fridman)

His father’s death reverberated in different ways through his life, perhaps most definitively by pulling him to his abiding passion, photography.

Paz-Fridman’s father was from Kibbutz Shefayim, a renowned farming collective in central Israel on the shores of the Mediterranean established by Amiram’s parents and other pioneers. Now privatized, a portion of the kibbutz land is home to some of the most palatial villas in the country, as well as a shopping center and golf course.

He and his mother, Gila, the daughter of Iraqi immigrants, lived at the kibbutz for two years following his father’s death. Paz-Fridman, now 47, lived first with his grandmother and then at the children’s house, along with his first cousin, where they were cared for by their grandmother — she held the job of caring for the kibbutz children for many years.

Tal Paz-Fridman, a photographer who turned to the craft as an adolescent, while grappling with the difficult realities of his family life. (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)

“That was the opening scene of my life,” said Paz-Fridman. “So the connection to my father’s family is very close, and it explains why I have those connections to the kibbutz and my grandmother and my cousin.”

After he and his mother moved to Ramat Gan, a town adjacent to Tel Aviv, Paz-Fridman spent every other weekend at his paternal grandmother’s house on the kibbutz, soaking up her life lessons.

Much of Paz-Fridman’s early years were shadowed by his mother’s mourning as well as her search for a new relationship. They lived in Dallas, Texas, for several years when she was in a relationship with an Israeli living there.

She remarried for a period, and had a daughter, Paz-Fridman’s half-sister, who is 11 years younger than he is. But for a long time, it was just the two of them, he said, making for a complicated, although close relationship.

When he was in sixth or seventh grade, and still visiting his grandmother regularly, he and his cousin would roam the kibbutz and its nearby fields. The budding photographer always had a camera in hand.

One of Tal Paz-Friedman’s nature works, this one is called ‘The Tree Top II’ (Courtesy Tal Paz-Friedman)

In high school, photography became a more serious pastime. Paz-Fridman and a good friend practiced their shots — but carefully, as film was expensive.

Paz-Fridman moved to Canada with his mother and sister during 10th grade, and spent the end of high school and two years of university in Canada. While it was difficult for him to be away from his Israeli friends, he spent a lot of time taking pictures and learning the art of developing photographs.

The hobby deepened into a passion during Paz-Fridman’s army service, when he served in an intelligence unit as an officer. With a very simple 35 millimeter camera, he and his high school friend made a practice of taking photos of unusual locations at night.

Cranes flying over the Hula Lake Park (Courtesy Tal Paz-Fridman)

“We had a lot of raw talent, but didn’t know how to accomplish what we wanted,” Paz-Fridman said.

The friends later traveled around Israel, choosing unusual perspectives and angles, photographing people from sunset until sunrise. Finally, in 2000, they gathered their work together and published a book of it.

Eventually Paz-Fridman got a job in high-tech, married his high school girlfriend and had three children. He gave up photography for a long stretch, until digital photography and Instagram offered new options, for both taking photos and displaying and selling them.

From Tal Paz-Fridman’s series of nature works, this one of the mountains of the Judean Desert (courtesy, Tal Paz-Fridman)

The ease with which he could take photographs, immersing himself in the experience, brought him back to his longtime hobby. He also found new ways to market his works, selling them via online web galleries and art sites.

Ultimately, however, Paz-Fridman still finds his motivation in the process of photography, and in going out into nature, around Israel, to witness and capture what he sees.

“I’ve always loved the ability to be with myself in photography,” he said. “I can go out, and don’t have to interact with anyone. I can just be with myself. For me, the camera is just part of the experience.”

Another work from Tal Paz-Fridman’s series in the Judean Desert (courtesy, Tal Paz-Fridman)

Paz-Fridman said he is often dissatisfied with his photos, even if he knows they have value and that others can connect to the images.

“They’ll resonate, so I’m letting them in on what I experienced,” he said. “I do it for me, and I share it.”

He always seeks what he calls “the decisive moment,” when he captures what he sees.

“I call myself a creative documentarian,” he said.  “I don’t crop, what you see is what I captured — it’s my interpretation. It’s just me, and that’s my most pure place. It’s when I’m in my element, when I’m feeling most natural, with my thoughts, in my process.”

‘Winter Surfing II,’ taken at Tel Baruch Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel (courtesy, Tal Paz-Fridman)

Ironically, most of the buyers on the online sites do not know that the imagery is of places and people in Israel.

“They see palm trees and beach and warmth and just love the exoticness of that,” he said. “They love the warm water, because they may live where it’s cold.”

A Lockheed C-130 Hercules and C-130J Super Hercules flying close together, part of an air show (courtesy, Tal Paz-Fridman)

Many customers also love his images of fighter jets being flown as part of the air show that takes place each Israel Independence Day, because of an innate, global love for airplanes.

The photographs portray elemental Israeli scenes, places that are as familiar to Paz-Fridman as his own backyard.

He would like to photograph elsewhere, though, particularly in some remote area, where little houses would remind him of his grandmother’s kibbutz house; a neighborhood without fences, where there is an air of trust between people, a sense that resides deep within him and makes him feel safe.

“It’s funny to see the differences between our world and theirs,” said Paz-Fridman of his photos and his customers. “I want you to look at my picture and see things, every time you look at it.”

read more:
less
comments
more