Israel is a stunning country for the photographic eye, Jerusalem Post's chief photographer Marc Israel Sellem said recently, citing the great variety of people to visit the country’s natural beauty present in the nation's diverse topography.



While Israel is home, Sellem isn’t shy to admit that the region's greatest events of 2011 occurred outside of Israel's borders.

"This past year had a lot of issues outside of Israel," he said in a phone interview days before 2011 came to a close. "There was the issue of the Arab Spring, Tunisia, things like this," he listed in a thick but comfortable French accent. "A lot of changes happened in the region." And while he contended that the year was not Israel's most eventful in his 11 years at the Post, there were still moments that inspired him both artistically and personally.

"It was the first time there were economic protests shared by both the Left and the Right," he said, adding that even the issue of settlements did not stand in the way of the social protest movement that spread on a national level this past summer.

For Sellem, the year's biggest story was undoubtedly the release of Gilad Schalit from more than five years of Hamas captivity. He said that he wishes he could have snapped a shot of the IDF soldier reunited with his family.

Still, Sellem elegantly captured a number of pivotal events that occurred as 2011 edged on. One highlight was photographing Israeli soldiers saving a Palestinian family by-chance from a burning building in an east Jerusalem neighborhood. He Marc Israel Sellemexcitedly recapped his experiences snapping birds-eye-view shots of Nablus, the Dead Sea, and the Jerusalem “March of a Million” in September.

But, while the year's events provided Sellem with ample fodder for his artistic eye, it’s Israel's natural beauty that interests him more. This preference is evident in what he chose as his favorite photograph since he began his tenure at the Post in 2000.

"My first picture in the Post was my favorite: Jerusalem in the snow," he says. "I hope there will be snow this year."

And the best annual event in Israel to capture behind the lens? "The best thing about Israel are the birds. They come from Asia to Europe and then from Europe back to Asia. I photographed it three years ago. It's amazing. You can see millions of birds," he explained.

Looking forward to 2012, Sellem was hopeful for "great inspiration" without violent conflict. "I hope we can avoid the bad times," he said. "No violence, no sadness. I hope there will be beautiful pictures, not pictures of conflict."

The following is a gallery of Sellem's own top photographs of 2011, chosen by the artist. He explains each different experience behind the lens, providing a personal look at this year in photographs.


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