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Interview'Neither of us realized we were capturing what lay ahead'

Years before first film, an Israeli artist turned Gal Gadot into Wonder Woman

Moses Pini Siluk’s audacious portraits make him the Holy Land’s hottest photographer, but internationally he’s known as the man who saw a superhero in Gadot long before her debut

  • Detail from photograph of Gal Gadot posing for Moses Pini Siluk as Wonder Woman for Israeli Sheva Leylot magazine years before snagging the role in the film. (Moses Pini Siluk)
    Detail from photograph of Gal Gadot posing for Moses Pini Siluk as Wonder Woman for Israeli Sheva Leylot magazine years before snagging the role in the film. (Moses Pini Siluk)
  • 'Check-Mate': Leonardo checkmating the Angel of Death in the backyard of his birthplace in Anchiano, Vinci. (Moses Pini Siluk)
    'Check-Mate': Leonardo checkmating the Angel of Death in the backyard of his birthplace in Anchiano, Vinci. (Moses Pini Siluk)
  • 'The Lion From Zion,' created by Moses Pini Siluk to raise morale among Israeli soldiers injured during the last war with Hamas in Gaza. (Moses Pini Siluk)
    'The Lion From Zion,' created by Moses Pini Siluk to raise morale among Israeli soldiers injured during the last war with Hamas in Gaza. (Moses Pini Siluk)
  • Detail of self-portrait by Moses Pini Siluk. (Courtesy)
    Detail of self-portrait by Moses Pini Siluk. (Courtesy)
  • 'Gallery Visit': Leonardo visiting the Uffizi gallery. (Moses Pini Siluk)
    'Gallery Visit': Leonardo visiting the Uffizi gallery. (Moses Pini Siluk)
  • 'Tel Aviv / Altneuland': Theodor Herzl visits at a party in Tel Aviv on a Friday Night.. (Moses Pini Siluk)
    'Tel Aviv / Altneuland': Theodor Herzl visits at a party in Tel Aviv on a Friday Night.. (Moses Pini Siluk)

LONDON (Jewish News) — Moses Pini Siluk is one of Israel’s most gifted photographers — but the trickiest to spot because he’s often in disguise. As Van Gogh. As Leonardo Da Vinci. Or as Theodore Herzl, who he recreated with prosthetics then took to Tel Aviv’s most popular gay club for photos.

“I took him [Herzl] to see how wild and free Israel is today,” explains Moses. “Herzl envisioned a free country, but did he ever imagine it as the liberal epicenter of the Middle East?”

During Israel’s strict lockdown Moses was more adventurous than most and while other citizens stayed at home, he took “Shtisel” stars Dov Glickman and Sasson Gabai to the beach in Tel Aviv. The socially- distanced sunset shot was used as the cover for Life magazine in September, but there is more to Moses than visual risk-taking. He can also manifest the future, as Gal Gadot can confirm.

It is hard to think of Israel’s most famous export than anything other than Princess Diana of Themyscira, aka Wonder Woman. And with the long-awaited sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” due to be released on December 16 at UK cinemas for one month, we are primed to reacquaint ourselves with the Amazonian warrior. But long before she put on her clingy gladiatorial armor and picked up a sword for Warner Bros, Moses had already predicted her superhero future.

Detail from photograph of Gal Gadot posing for Moses Pini Siluk as Wonder Woman for Israeli Sheva Leylot magazine years before snagging the role in the film. (Moses Pini Siluk)

“I presented Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a shoot for Sheva Leylot [Seven Nights] magazine seven years before she was considered for the role,” says the lens maestro.

She was flying around the world working and taking care of her family, and to me that triggered the idea of superhero

“Back then she was a rising star in Israel with a dream and fierce determination. She was flying around the world working and taking care of her family, and to me that triggered the idea of superhero. And she was more than happy to pose for the portrait. Neither of us realized we were capturing what lay ahead,” he says.

But Moses’s talents aren’t confined to predicting the future.

‘Gallery Visit’: Leonardo visiting the Uffizi gallery. (Moses Pini Siluk)

He also manipulates the past in an inspired collection of self-portraits in which he physically adopts the identities of famous artists and scholars who have long since died.

“They are my interpretation of tikkun olam [Hebrew for repair the world],” stresses the 37-year old from Netanya. “The artists I recreate seldom got to experience recognition in their lifetime and I felt their dreams should be resolved. So I transformed myself into them physically and spiritually to create portraits of experiences I believe they would have loved.”

Tribute to Vincent van Gogh. (Moses Pini Siluk)

It’s a complex concept, but one with enormous heart which is evident in his Vincent Van Gogh portrait “Truth Come Dream Come True.”

“Van Gogh sold only one piece of work before his death and never received the support he deserved, so I showed him what he achieved posthumously, by taking him to New York’s Metropolitan Museum to see his name on the hoarding,” says Moses.

Moses did the same for Da Vinci with a portrait set in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, where Da Vinci was never commissioned, and did similar in mounts for the likes of Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Titian.

The photos, which are digitally painted over many days in photoshop, look like classical paintings, including his epic-sized image “Lion of Zion” featuring a spectacular lion wearing phylacteries which was created to raise the morale of Israeli soldiers injured during the last war with Hamas.

Moses got into photography as a night-life snapper in 1999, capturing high energy parties attended by the famous and fabulous.

‘The Lion From Zion,’ created by Moses Pini Siluk to raise morale among Israeli soldiers injured during the last war with Hamas in Gaza. (Moses Pini Siluk)

“Initially I was just excited to be hanging out, but when I got to shoot a kibbutz soldier’s party something clicked in my mind and I understood the the power of capturing a flitting moment for all time,” he says.

Modern day Moses also enjoys having fun on a shoot and just as he transformed Gal into a DC character, he did the same with Gilad Erdan, just as he was elected Israeli Ambassador at the UN.

‘Maoz Tzur Yeshuati’: lighting Hanukkah candles. (Photograph by Moses Pini Siluk)

“I presented him as Superman, the country’s defender, with a Magen David [Star of David] logo on his chest,” says Moses, but the image has yet to run, as it was a step too far for Erdan.

“Perhaps when he runs for president,” says the snapper, who advocates following dreams.

His next dream is arguably even more controversial, as he will be resolving conflict in biblical stories to spread a message of hope and forgiveness to the world.

For this there will be no blame-shaming by Adam and Eve before God; no stone-throwing in David and Goliath; and Delilah will not cut Samson’s hair.

“I hope to unleash peace,” says Moses. “To see an end to war and chaos and changing the stories we grew up with is where to start. The project is called ‘Khalas,’ which is Israeli/Arabic slang for ‘stop’ or knock it off. Think of it as a contemporary commandment.”

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