Snap decisions

The ‘Local Testimony’ exhibition displays compelling photographs from Israel and 25 other countries.

Man and woman in burka 390 (photo credit: Samuel Aranda)
Man and woman in burka 390
(photo credit: Samuel Aranda)
Legendary journalist and newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane famously observed in the early part in the 20th century that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” If that is still the case, then Moran Shoub and her colleagues had to sift through the pictorial equivalent of millions of words before arriving at the final lineup for this year’s “Local Testimony” photographic exhibition, which will run at the Eretz Israel Museum Tel Aviv, in Ramat Aviv from December 6 to January 19.
Shoub is artistic director of this year’s event, the ninth to date, which incorporates around 200 prints from this part of the world, plus a selection of works by 57 photographers from 25 countries, World Press Photo Exhibition, which is doing the rounds of museums in major cities across the globe.
The panel of professionals who sifted through some 6,500 pictures by Israeli photographers includes the likes of veteran journalist Reli Abrahami, researcher and lecturer Dr. Yaarah Gil-Glaser, journalist and political activist Asma Aghnaria Zahalka and journalist and TV host Rino Tzror.
If you take a look at monochrome photographs from the early days of the discipline, say the mid-19th century, the subjects in the shot tend to exude a sense of abstract innocence and lack of awareness of what the lens pointed at them was capable of capturing. That, of course, quickly changed, and today we are all “guilty” of adopting camera-friendly poses so that we project the desired image for perpetuity. Fast forward to these days of easy-to-use digital cameras and cell phone cameras, when practically everyone is a photographer of sorts, and one wonders whether the relentless exposure to increasingly invasive Web-based imagery has fundamentally changed the way we interpret and respond to the fruits of photojournalism.
And there is the impact on the person on the other side of the camera to be considered as well. Do photographers have to keep on pushing the boundaries of subtlety, consideration and even moral judgment to ensure that their shot hits home? It is an issue of which Shoub is keenly aware. She says that more than anything, it is the constantly changing reality of our times that leaves its mark on the nature of photography.
“There are new things coming up all the time,” she observes. “For instance, we did not have the issue of refugees here until a few years ago. The subject of refugees is a major feature of photojournalism today, and of this year’s exhibition.
There are the refugees in south Tel Aviv and also in Arad, and a lot of photographers sent in pictures on the subject. When reality changes and new stories come up and the human landscape changes, the way the photographer approaches his or her work will also evolve.”
Presumably, the photographers’ fruits are also influenced by directives from their superiors. Surely, the photojournalist will be told to tailor his or her pictures to some editorial line. Shoub believes that ultimately, it is the tangible reality in the field that dictates the final image we see.
“It doesn’t matter whether the photographer has an agenda in mind before he sets off; you can’t appropriate the actual event,” she says Shoub notes the horrific event that occurred in July when Moshe Silman set himself alight during a social justice demonstration and later died of his burns. The event was widely covered by the media.
“There is a picture of that in the exhibition,” says the artistic director, “but you can’t say that it is the work of the photographer that produced an extreme image. That was what actually happened.”
Although, naturally, Shoub is involved in the way our everyday reality is delivered to the public, she doesn’t own a TV and generally eschews newspapers. She prefers to encounter the world herself rather than through the media filter.
“I get out there, and I believe that photographer have a public duty to get out there and to document events happening in the field and convey them to others. We, the public, have a duty to follow this testimony. If we are responsible citizens, we have to take an interest in other people’s stories,” she asserts.
There are plenty of compelling images in the “Local Testimony” exhibition that may stay with the visitors for some time, but Shoub says it is hard to know what shots will eventually take on a more pervading status.
“[Israel Prize recipient photographer] David Rubinger said that no one can pinpoint a particular photograph that will become an iconic image,” she says. “An icon is determined by the public, and only after time. So I don’t really know if a photographer can know ahead of time what is expected of him. I think it is reality that dictates the frame.”
That said, Shoub returns to the allimportant component of how the streetwise subject reacts to the lens pointed in his or her direction.
“If you take, for example, mourners at the funeral of someone who has been killed in a terrorist attack, they know there will be media and press photographers, and they will direct themselves for the image they want the press photographer to capture,” she explains.
This is depicted in “Local Testimony.”
“In the exhibition, there is a photograph of a funeral in which one of the mourning women, right at the graveside, is holding a newspaper from the previous day with a picture of her husband who was killed in a terrorist attack. That conveys a strong message,” she points out.
The items in the exhibition pertain to several categories, such as urbanism, community, religion and faith, daily life, sports, nature and the environment, and art and culture.
Each year there is also a separate theme-based show. This time, the subject is home or, more accurately, the lack thereof, and “the right of dwelling.” The sideshow is called “Castoffs” and includes some strong and emotive images of homeless people and refugees living out on the street, and personal effects – that would normally be kept and used in the home – strewn across public spaces for all to see.
All the still photographs and video clips in “Local Testimony” were captured between September 1, 2011, and August 31, 2012, except for one photograph of domestic items arranged in the street. That shot, taken by Oren Ziv of the Activestills photography group in July 2011, features the contents of an apartment that Dafni Leef, one of the leaders of the 2011 social protest movement, placed on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
The works in “Local Testimony” cover a wide spectrum of human emotions and situations, which undoubtedly will resonate strongly with the public.
For more information about the exhibition: (03) 641-5244, , and
Cover Photo
A new recruit at a German-run police training center in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
The photo won second prize in the World Press Photo Exhibition in the Portrait Stories category.
The photo was taken by Ton Koene from The Netherlands for the Volkskrant newspaper and was published on September 28, 2011.
Young men recruited into the Afghan police force are often from rural areas where education is poor, so most of them are illiterate. Many join the police solely for financial reasons – a police officer earns about 130 euros a month – but their loyalty to the government is minimal.
Harsh working conditions, and the risk of being killed by the Taliban, lead to many leaving the force before their contract ends.