Worth a thousand words

For Vadim Onishchenko, founder of the Photolight Gallery, every trip starts and ends with a picture.

Vadim Onishchenko shows photo 390 (photo credit: Courtesy of Yael Pesotchinski)
Vadim Onishchenko shows photo 390
(photo credit: Courtesy of Yael Pesotchinski)
Before Facebook and Twitter, when people came back from vacation, they would gather their friends together to watch a slide show. These photos were the best souvenir, the wow factor, the proof of a successful trip. Even now, maybe even more so than before, pictures are an invaluable part of any experience.
For Vadim Onishchenko, every trip starts and ends with photography. CEO of the Photolight Gallery and online portal, which he founded in 2005, Onishchenko has devoted the past decade to bringing the art of photography to the forefront of Israeli culture. As an organization, Photolight offers an online platform for local photographers to showcase their work, troubleshoot with other professionals and collaborate with their peers. Through the site, photographers can order prints of their photos, find models and sell their work. At present, there are over 20,000 active members on the site.
Last month, Onishchenko opened the doors of the south Tel Aviv location with an inaugural exhibit entitled The Magic of Kenya. The show, which drew photography buffs from around the country, featured images captured by Onishchenko over a handful of trips to one of his favorite locations.
The online expression of Photolight’s activities includes photography competitions for members. Breathtaking photos fill the website’s Photo Of The Day and Photo Of The Week slots, from both professional and amateur photographers. In addition, an ongoing contest entitled Animals in Nature is currently under way, which will culminate in a group exhibition by the top 30 contestants as chosen by a professional committee.
“The winner will get to do a private show here in the gallery, which we will fully produce,” said Onishchenko.
Now, with their brand new gallery space, Photolight will begin to invite members to present their work in a more formal setting.
“This is one of the first photography galleries in Israel,” explained a very proud Onishchenko. “In this country, photography isn’t considered an art form like it is abroad. There is no bachelor’s [degree] program for photography in Israel. The resources available to photographers are incredibly limited. We aim to change that.”
Onishchenko is a vibrant individual. As he spoke about his trips to Kenya, including a trip with his now eightyear- old daughter to see the animals, his eyes sparkled.
“I go to Kenya every August,” he said. “I took my daughter for the first time when she was five years old. I love that place.”
A travel enthusiast, Onishchenko offers organized trips for his fellow photographers.
“I went with an organized group to Kenya years ago,” said Onishchenko of his inspiration for these excursions.
“It was my first trip to the country and it was awful. They drove us around for hours without seeing anything. We decided to offer trips as a result of that bad trip.”
Each trip is carefully planned to create the optimal conditions for photographers.
“It takes three to four months to plan each trip,” said Onishchenko. “Unlike a lot of organized trips, we take all of the major elements into account, such as light and weather.”
In the coming months, Photolight will dispatch delegations of photographers to the Czech Republic, China, Jordan and Kyrgyzstan.
As a lover of animals, a longtime dream of Onishchenko’s is to capture the elusive snow leopard on film.
“I’ve been longing to photograph this animal for years. He’s a tough creature to find but he’s worth the trouble,” beamed Onishchenko. A known family of snow leopards currently inhabits the mountains in Kyrgyzstan, he said.
Another of Onishchenko’s lifelong aspirations is also in the making. Photolight is currently laying the groundwork for an epic trip to Antarctica.
“In 2013 or 2014 we will offer a trip to Antarctica. It’s a hard trip to plan for obvious reasons. We hope to photograph polar bears there,” he said.
As the glorious tableaus of The Magic of Kenya are removed from Photolight’s walls, a new exhibit is already being canvassed. This show, which corresponds with Street Life, the second ongoing competition on the website, is a look at the Israeli urban existence. The Reality of Life is the work of photographer Yair Green and will be on display starting next week.
The Photolight Gallery is located at 42 Menachem Begin Street in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit www.photolight.co.il.