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(photo credit: Jim Hollander)
It's one thing to risk your life because you've been conscripted into the army and wartime comes along, but you have to have an entirely different mindset to willingly flirt with death because you want to get the best photograph you can of the battlefield action - preferably, before any of your professional counterparts get theirs.
Jim Hollander has been living life in the twilight zone, skirting danger and constantly preparing to hit the road as action breaks (hoping to get to the scene before the first shots are fired), for over three decades. He has covered the fighting in Afghanistan, the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and, more to the regional point, took his first pictures here in the early days of the Operation Peace of the Galilee in 1982, which eventually became known as the first Lebanon War. A year later he settled here, initially working for UPI and now runs the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) bureau in Israel.
Over the years, besides dispersing his wares across the globe for media consumption, Hollander has won awards and exhibited photographs around the world. Two Hollander creations placed third in different categories of the Local Testimony exhibition-contest, which opens at the Ha'aretz Museum in Ramat Aviv on Wednesday, and will run for a month.
The early years of 60-year-old Hollander's life, were about as far away from the Middle East conflict as you could imagine, dichotomous lifestyles notwithstanding. A New York native, he split his teenage years between soaking up the vibes of Greenwich Village as the folk scene was erupting and attending prep school, and latched on some far more feral energies when visiting his artist father in southern Spain. "I ran with the bulls and became fascinated with them," Hollander recalls. "When I later photographed them I did so as an aficionado. It caught me somewhere where, say, baseball and football never caught on with me." 25 years on, Hollander published a highly colorful and graphic portrayal of one of Spain's most famous bull runs, a plush 215-page tome called Run To The Sun: Pamplona's Fiesta de San FermÃn. "I always thought that baseball and football were strange sports to get involved in, and maybe get killed doing. I ran with the bulls when I was 13. I saw the artistry involved in bull fighting, which I really liked."
Hollander utilizes his own artistry to capture images that convey stories across the globe in a single frame, and he is mindful of the need to keep an even keel. "You try not to get into politics, and you try to show both sides of the story," he says. He also has a keen eye for images that are off the beaten war path. His picture of soldiers catching a few minutes sleep during the Cast Lead operation in Gaza is one of Hollander's third-placed entries to Local Testimony. Mind you, the photo also got him into trouble. "There was an IDF officer there and he wanted me to get out of there. I kept asking him if I could just take a couple of photographs, and tried to get him to keep his voice down so the soldiers wouldn't wake up. Eventually I took about four pictures and then the officer kicked me out."
While technology has made the life of the press photographer easier, for Hollander his Cast Lead experience illustrates the future of the war photographer. "The Israeli army didn't allow anyone into Gaza during the campaign, and I think that's the way it's going to increasingly be. It's going to get tougher to get those pictures out to the world."
The Local Testimony exhibition opens tomorrow at the Ha'aretz Museum in Ramat Aviv. For more information go to: www.edutmekomit.co.il
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