Through the looking glass

Israeli photojournalists reveal the drama and the danger of life behind the lens.

By SAM SER
June 1, 2006 10:49
2 minute read.
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The young man looks the part: he's fit, he's energetic and he has with him not only several samples of his work, but also the expensive equipment it'll take to produce more at a moment's notice. He has come to the Reuters office in Tel Aviv to meet with experienced news photographer Gil Cohen Magen to try to get his foot in the door - and he's been fortunate enough to be greeted as well by 20-year veteran Menahem Kahana of AFP. Perhaps, he hopes, they will give him a job. Or a chance. Or a tip. Featured photojournalists and selected photos:

  • Sometimes you just get lucky: Tsafrir Abayov
  • 'You have to flip a switch in your head': Ariel Jerozolimski
  • Fishing for the unexpected: Menahem Kahana and Gil Cohen Magen
  • 'Look, teeth': Ricki Rosen What he gets is a gentle lashing for the professional no-no, only a few days prior, of trying to impress Kahana with his photos from the Lag Ba'omer festivities at Mount Meron - unaware that Kahana was right there on the scene, had been right there on the scene for years and was doing just fine, thank you. ("Next time, introduce yourself to another photographer before you try to sell him your pictures," Cohen Magen advises while Kahana is out of the room.) In an extremely competitive and increasingly exhausting field, the lesson of discretion is not the only one this young photographer will need to absorb. If he can handle the pace of covering half a dozen events in a day, he'll still have to learn to overcome the monotony of snapping countless handshakes, remand hearings, first days of school, workers' strikes and stiffly formal ceremonies. The singular moment in which all the elements of a compelling photograph align for him will be maddeningly elusive, demanding constant awareness and uncanny anticipation. He'll have to be prepared to risk physical danger and deal with intense emotional trauma. When he shoots at a funeral, mourners will curse him. As he attempts to photograph a visiting head of state, colleagues will knock him down to obtain a better position. And after he has stared, over and over again and from several different angles, at the horrific suffering of terrorism victims that he is powerless to assuage and obligated to document in gruesome detail, no one will call him a hero and offer him solace. Instead, there will be only the call of another assignment. "This job," the hardened Kahana notes dryly, "is not for the weak."

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