Head for the streets in Haifa

The Street Culture Arts Festival will be a hub of musical, theatrical, photographic and artistic activity.

Each generation, or possibly subgeneration, has its iconic images and events as a comfortable common reference point.
People approaching or above pensionable age may recall where they were when they heard about president John Kennedy’s assassination in 1961. Others a few years younger will share their recollections of Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” as he set foot on the moon.
Perhaps a few years down the line, the images of this summer’s momentous social protest, with its tent cities, demonstrations and other emotive events, captured by photographer Ziv Koren, may help to evoke memories. Some of his stirring pictures of the protest activities will be on display in his 2011 Israeli Identity exhibition, which is part of this year’s three-day Street Culture Arts Festival in Haifa’s downtown area (October 20-22).
With his keen nose and eye for bubbling under news, Koren began documenting the first tents on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard as the protest started.
“I got a call on July 15, the day after the first tents went up there, and I went down and began taking pictures, “ he recounts.
In between working trips abroad, Koren stayed with the tent city dwellers and protesters throughout. “I photographed demonstrations, the processions and goings-on at the tent city on Rothschild. I didn’t miss a thing on Rothschild Boulevard. I also went to Jerusalem and other places in Tel Aviv, but I focused on Rothschild because that was the epicenter of the protest,” he says.
Koren, who works in Israel for the Yisrael Hayom newspaper and regularly contributes images to such leading global publications as Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Sunday Times and Der Spiegel, says he had an inkling from the outset that the protest would gather momentum.
“It looked different from anything I’d see until now. I thought it was worthwhile hanging around to monitor how things would evolve. I deal in facts, not speculation, but I definitely felt that this was something different ,and I spent whole days and nights there.”
As any documentary photographer worth his salt will tell you, the ideal situation to aim for is the fly-on-the-wall capacity. Koren says he soon became part of the furniture among the tent people and protesters.
“I got to know people, and I visited a hunger striker there every day.”
That helped him capture images of events as they unfolded.
“There were all sorts of demonstrations that occurred as part of the whole tent thing. The cowshed people and the right-wingers and all sorts of other parties got drawn in to the social protest. It was fascinating to watch and to photograph,” he says.
Even with the tumultuous stream of events since July, Koren is aware of the potentially detrimental effect that overexposure to the media can inflict and that today, with such comprehensive and often invasive and constant Internet coverage, capturing genuinely important moments can be difficult.
“I often look for things that other media professionals don’t. For example, I can get up at 5 a.m. to catch the city dwellers as they start to wake up to a new day – people praying, others washing their face.
Everyone went over there to catch the afternoon activities, but beyond the search for the ‘production value’ special angles, I looked for special, alternative things,” he explains.
That quest produced a wide array of documentary items.
“I put together a four-minute video clip for Channel 2’s Friday Studio show, with music and others things from the protest,” says Koren, adding that he also provided some surprising visual material. “I took some photographs that were used by a postcard company. It is a commercial company, but we put out a series of social protest postcards. I also made a clip with [singer-songwriter] David Broza based on the tune of [Broza’s hit song] ‘Yihyeh Tov’ (It Will Work Out), with words by Aviv Gefen.”
Koren says he is delighted to unveil some of the images he captured during the three months of the social protest in Haifa. “Haifa has a multicultural makeup, and I am glad the show is out on the street. That seems to me to be a natural milieu for the photographs, rather than indoors in some museum or gallery, and especially as there will be large numbers of people passing by the photographs. It is always good for an artist to have his work exposed to the general public.”
In addition to the Koren exhibition, the Street Culture Arts Festival will host a large range of shows and activities about three locales – Harlem, Paris and Berlin – each with its own artistic and cultural spirit. There will be concerts by the likes of rock singer Hemi Rudner, rock-funk-blues act Magic Groove, funk band Mercedes Band and rock group Synergia. There will also be break-dance and juggling acts, street musicians, 3D painting and street theater.
It seems there won’t be a dull moment at the festival.
For more information: www.sukothaifa.co.il or call 106 in Haifa.