(photo credit: )
World Press Photo
Eretz Israel Museum
The tradition of photojournalism in photography goes back almost as far as photography itself. During the US Civil War, for example, Matthew Brady organized a team of photographers to document the historic battles and terrible carnage. Their equipment was primitive and unwieldy but they were professionals and they persevered, producing a priceless historical record of the war.
The art of photojournalism leaped light years forward in the 1930s. Miniature cameras with 35-mm. film and fast shutter speeds freed photographers from using static tripods, and the result was indeed a burst of freedom and fresh creativity in the entire art of photography. The birth and success of Life magazine in the US is directly attributable to the new photographic technology of the day. Photojournalism became synonymous with the evocation of humanity and human understanding.
The legendary photojournalism exhibition Family of Man, curated by Edward Steichen in the late 1950s - and the exhibition catalogue which is in print to this day - are the high water marks of photojournalism in the late 20th century.
The present exhibition of photojournalism at Tel Aviv's Eretz Israel Museum gets low marks, however. An annual affair at the museum since 2003, the exhibition combines a showing of the work of Israeli photojournalists - dubbed Local Testimony - with the photographs of World Press Photo, a Dutch organization.
In short, the stress in this extremely disappointing exhibition is not on humanity or human understanding but rather on sensationalism - death, suffering and chaos in living color. Instead of striving in the least to look behind the extremely dramatic events they depict and evoke even an ounce of human feeling or pathos, the photos on exhibit are a mÃ©lange of color and pattern for their own sake, with a clear voyeuristic stress on violence and the grotesque.
In addition, one set of images in the Local Testimony section contains a caption that distorts and falsifies IDF security procedures in the territories. For this and for a generally ugly and inhumane photojournalism exhibit the Eretz Israel Museum must account for itself.
The exhibit runs through January 16.
Yonatan Silverman is a professional Hebrew to English translator in Tel Aviv. He is the author of For the World to See: The Life of Margaret Bourke White (New York, 1983), and publishes an email newsletter called Sartaba.