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