The art of simplicity

Sally Macklef is one of 60 Israeli photographers whose work is currently on display in a traveling exhibition in China.

Brit Mila mom 88 248 (photo credit: Sally Macklef)
Brit Mila mom 88 248
(photo credit: Sally Macklef)
Sally Macklef's subjects are dancing, celebrating, laughing and holding each other's hands. Her view of Jewish life is a view of joy and community. Her pictures are of religion and worship, of the elementary things in life. The young photographer from Tel Aviv shows her country through her own eyes. She shows marriages and bar mitzvas, families who pray and learn together. Macklef is one of 60 leading contemporary Israeli photographers whose work is on display right now in China's Three Gorges Museum in the city of Chongqing. Called "Inside Israel," the exhibition in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary was curated jointly by Yang Chaupang from the Three Gorges Museum and Esther Dollinger, Doron Pollack and Iris Elhanani from Israel. After its visit in Chongqing, the exhibition will travel around China, providing an overview of the Israeli photography scene these days. It contains a unique variety of photographs displaying contemporary Israel, its landscapes and nature, modern lifestyles, Judaism, ethnic groups and Israeli architecture, as well as the types of artistic photographs prevalent in the Israeli photography scene. Both prominent leading artists and young, developing artists are participating in this project; they come from all levels of Israeli society and from all over the country. The exhibit includes pictures of young soldiers by famous photojournalist Ziv Koren, photos of naked Tel Aviv beach boys by Rotem Ritov and daily street scenes by Adi Brande. And then the religious world of Macklef comes in. For her, showing her works in Asia is like coming full circle. The 36-year-old artist fell in love with photography while traveling through Asian countries like Japan, Laos and India years ago. "It was the simplicity of life and the innocence which fascinated me so much," the photographer recalled. "The people cared about food and friends, not about problems of luxury like we have." THE SEARCH for simplicity led Macklef to change her whole life three years ago. After a successful career in management, after traveling the world and being busy all the time, Macklef decided to listen to her heart. She quit her exciting job and began to study photography seriously. "Everybody said I was stupid," Macklef said. "But with all the glamour, I felt like I was living a lie - and I decided that the time for truth had come." The camera was always with her, like a part of her body - like her third hand or third eye, according to Macklef. She now thinks it was crazy that she studied economy and business at all. "I was afraid to turn 40 one day and still be working as a waitress looking for a breakthrough as an artist," Macklef explained. Her final decision to go with photography came along with her final decision to embrace religion - which came with her husband. With him, Macklef became more and more religious. Raised in a secular family, she started to learn and study Bratslav Hassidut. A lot of her later works are evidence of her new life as a hassidic Jew. Her most famous picture included in the Inside Israel exhibition shows hassidic men dancing during Lag Ba'omer, one of whom is her husband. Macklef sat for hours upon hours with a small pocket camera, taking hundreds of pictures during the celebration of more than 300,000 people. "All this happiness fascinates me, this power of community," Macklef explained. "I realized that when you're not happy, you can't believe in God." Another picture shows two women tightly holding a baby after his circumcision. There's so much love in the mother's eyes, there's pride and joy. The picture reflects Macklef's personal fulfillment. "It shows the Jewish way of life. The way of life where I found the simplicity and innocence I was always looking for." Inside Israel is currently at China's Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing. After Chongqing the exhibition will move to Harbin and will be exhibited to the public during the International Ice and Snow Festival.