A shot in time

‘Jerusalem Post’ sports photographer, who is displaying in a joint exhibition at the Vision Gallery, prefers the old-fashioned approach.

Asaf Kliger: ‘I am always surprised by what I see in the print.’ (photo credit: JOSEFIN LINDBERG)
Asaf Kliger: ‘I am always surprised by what I see in the print.’
(photo credit: JOSEFIN LINDBERG)
Today, people ceaselessly and eagerly snap photos with their cell phones and, less frequently, with bona fide digital cameras. But there aren’t many out there who still take pictures with film-based cameras, schlep the film to the camera shop and wait a day or so to get their prints back, not knowing how they will come out.
Asaf Kliger eschews all that instant, user-friendly digital camera paraphernalia. As his work in the exhibition “Contemplating the Horizon” – which is running at the Vision gallery behind Nahalat Shiva as part of this year’s Manofim arts week – amply demonstrates, he is no rush to achieve the results he desires.
Curated by Doron Adar, the exhibition also includes prints by British-born monochrome landscape photographer Michael Kenna and US born Israeli resident photographer Neil Folberg, who owns the gallery and was a student of iconic American landscape photographer Ansel Adams.
Considering his age – all of 31 – Kliger’s preference for the “olde worlde” mechanical means of capturing images is surprising – and, some might say, refreshing. When most of us take a picture these days, we hear a hi-tech simulation of a shutter sound, but when Kliger presses the button on his cameras, sometime later – he has a penchant for long exposures – he hears the sound of a real-life camera shutter closing.
Kliger, who takes sports photographs for The Jerusalem Post, says his exhibits in “Contemplating the Horizon” are an extension of his sports work.
“When I take sports shots for the newspaper, I have to capture something that represents, say, a whole game of basketball in a single frame. That involves documentation, but also taking an artistic approach to the job at hand,” he says. “I give a lot of thought to the interface between the two.”
The generally accepted view of sports pictures is that the photographer has to capture a highshutter- speed image to freeze fast-moving action into a sharp and clear picture. So what motivates Kliger to leave his shutter open for so long? “I want to convey emotion and a moment, or an experience, from some event,” he explains. “It doesn’t make any difference if we are talking news, sports or artistic photographs. By using a long exposure time, I am offering another option of how to appreciate the experience.”
That, he says, is something he achieved with a shot he took of last season’s basketball cup final between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Holon.
“I took a picture with a two-hour exposure time, which covered the entire period of the match,” he recalls. “What you ultimately see is the fans, moving around while they are seated, but you don’t see the players because they are running, and because of the chemical aspect of taking photographs. In practice, you have everything in the picture.”
With such photos, presumably, the viewer’s appreciation is more subliminal.
“I show the whole game from an objective standpoint,” he says. “Conceptually the picture strives to take an objective approach. Of course, there is no pure objectivity here, but I aim to get that. I am just offering the viewer a different way of looking at the game.”
His three large-scale works in the Vision gallery exhibition are all the result of long exposures. They are landscape shots from Israel, Bolivia and Thailand, and when you spend a couple of minutes observing them, you start to understand what he’s talking about.
There is an intriguing shot of the Tel Aviv seafront that apparently takes in a bunch of surfers. You don’t consciously spot them, but according to Kliger, on some level you register them.
“It’s like with the basketball shot. You know the players are there, and like you complete and understand a word you may read even though it’s missing a letter, you will complete it and you’ll understand the sentence. Your mind is capable of realizing that the players are there.”
The photographer says he leaves the viewing public some work to do. “Looking at a long-exposure picture can be confusing, but that is good. It gets people thinking.”
His photo Koh Chang, Thailand is a case in point. The 1-meter-by-80-cm. color print was taken on a ferry from the Thai mainland to the island in question. It shows vehicles parked on the ferry – which, as they are static, are in focus – but the sea and the island on the horizon are slightly blurred. It gives the picture an eerie but fetching quality.
Taking such protracted shots can be quite a spiritual experience, it seems – although that is not always the case.
“When I take a photograph like the one of the surfers at the Hilton Beach in Tel Aviv, which involved an exposure of two to three hours, it is like a meditative experience for me. But when I take a long exposure shot of a basketball match, I’ll leave the camera and I’ll go off and take other pictures of the game with other cameras, hoping no one will move the long-exposure camera.”
Naturally, freezing the camera shutter for so long means that he never knows what he’s going to end up with.
“I am always surprised by what I see in the print,” he says. “That’s great. If I go for the concept, then even if a photograph doesn’t work out, if I miss what I was hoping to capture, then that’s fine, too. In any case, I experience something when I take a picture.”
The observer does, too.
For more information about the exhibition and the gallery: 622-2253 or www.visiongallery.com.