My Jerusalem

It’s not just the language, or the way the city is planned, or the cuisine. It’s also the atmosphere and the faces in the crowd.

December 6, 2012 17:19
3 minute read.
SACKCLOTH AND ashes, 21st century-style

SACKCLOTH AND ashes, 21st century-style 521. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

PARIS, WHERE I was born and raised, is markedly different to Jerusalem where I have been living since 1995.

It’s not just the language, or the way the city is planned, or the cuisine. It’s also the atmosphere and the faces in the crowd.

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Having been in love with photography since I was 12 years old, I always dreamt of being a press photographer, but when I came to Israel I didn’t have any contacts and I couldn’t speak Hebrew. Aside from that I wanted to further my studies.

At the time, Jerusalem, as far as I was aware, had the best ulpan facilities and also the best academic courses for people who wanted to study in a religious environment.

For me, it was a natural destination.

Other than on Shabbat, I never traveled anywhere without my camera, so I brought it with me to the ulpan and took many photos there.

My first ever camera was an accidental find. When I was 12, my mother said that I was now old enough to help with the pre-Passover cleaning, and she wanted me to do a very thorough job.

In the process of cleaning, I found an old camera, and instantly became enamored with it. However, the first photos I took were blurred and I assumed that the camera was faulty. But I didn’t throw it away. I put it on a shelf in my room, and when my cousin saw it, he said: “That’s a nice camera.” When I told him that I thought there was something wrong with it because the photos were blurred, he explained that the camera was fine, but that the photographs had been taken at the wrong speed.

Another try proved that he was right. After that I read every magazine on photography that I could lay my hands on, and considered myself a reasonable amateur photographer.

Professionally, I thought that marketing was a good career choice, and that’s what I studied at the Jerusalem College of Technology.

Later, I found employment in the subscriptions department of The Jerusalem Post, and occasionally supplied the paper with photographs In 2000, when snow fell in Jerusalem, which doesn’t happen every year, I took a photograph of snow-covered Jerusalem and the Post published it in its French and International editions as well as in the local In Jerusalem weekly supplement. The photograph appealed to many readers, some of whom wanted to purchase a copy.

Avi Golan, who was then a senior executive in the paper’s administration division, called me into his office and told me that I should really focus more on photography because that was obviously my forte.

The Post already had a staff photographer at the time, so there was no point in my giving up my job in the subscriptions department, which was just as well, because I was subsequently transferred to the paper’s Tel Aviv office, where I worked for five years before returning to work in Jerusalem.

In 2010, the position of photographer became vacant, and happily I’d already proved myself to the various editors, and thus was finally able to take Golan’s advice and switch from marketing to photography.

I love to walk through the streets of Jerusalem, to look at the contrasts between the old buildings with their distinctive Jerusalem stone walls, and the new, sleek modern buildings that are going up all over the city. I like to look at the people whose faces and styles of dress are also studies in contrast. I like to see the contrasts in the light that bathes the city from dawn to twilight. I can stand in front of the walls of the Old City for four hours until I get the shot I want because of the light effect. I like to wander from the center of town to Mea She’arim. It’s a seven minute walk – but it’s a completely different world…

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