Colors in black

Most of Doron Adar’s photos are black and white, but, he says, they aren’t monochromatic.

Doron Adar untitled photo 521 (photo credit: Doron Adar)
Doron Adar untitled photo 521
(photo credit: Doron Adar)
Doron Adar is a man of substance. The 58-yearold photographer says he places great emphasis on portraying the texturally expressive side of his craft, and his current one-man show at the Agripas 12 gallery gets that message across in unequivocal fashion.
The exhibition goes by the name of “Almost Black,” and the dozen or so outsize prints clearly convey that chromic conundrum. While there is color in some of the works, most notably in a picture of bright pink rhododendrons and in a darkly stirring rendition of a sturdy iron gate, the overriding sense is that the artist was aiming to encapsulate all the colors of the rainbow in a monochromic palette.
Adar has taken a long and winding road to arrive at his avenue of artistic expression. He first put his hands on a release button at 13, when his mother bought him a simple Agfa camera. It wasn’t entirely love at first click, but the teenage Adar took plenty of snapshots through his youth. Then, post-army and at a loose end, he decided to get serious.
“I was 21 and didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, and I felt I needed to study something,” the Haifa-born photographer recalls. He promptly registered for photography studies at Hadassah College in Jerusalem, and his career scene was set.
He made great strides in his new profession, and in 1981, he founded the Jerusalem branch of the Camera Obscura school of photography. The original Tel Aviv institution had come into being a year earlier. The Jerusalem venture lasted eight years until it ran out of steam.
Meanwhile, he kept his own financial house in order through a wide range of photographic pursuits, which included a lot of work for the Israel Antiquities Authority, as well as producing polished PR shots and more artistic documentation of theatrical and dance projects. He says his archeological endeavor was a good training ground.
“It required a lot of attention to detail. I did a lot of work with archeologists... on excavations before [the government] started building [the neighborhoods of] Pisgat Ze’ev and Givat Ze’ev. They found a lot of burial caves, and before the guys from Mea She’arim came over [to see if there were Jewish graves], I took photographs, to document the finds before the bulldozers moved in.”
But he says he always looks for new challenges. “It was nice, for example, to take pictures of dancers, but after a while even that became routine.”
Today, he says he simply keeps his eyes open.
“It may sound a little arrogant, but I take pictures of what I see,” he explains.
The pictures in “Almost Black,” like all his work in recent years, are a result of the sights, energies and vibes he picks up on as he goes with the flow.
“Most of the things I shoot are not the result of planning,” he says. “I don’t get up at 5 in the morning to get to some location by 6:15 and take photos until 9:20. There are photographers who work that way, but that’s not for me.”
Still, there is some method to his apparent laissez faire approach, and he employs a musical analogy to explain his ethos: “I like jazz a lot, and my photographic work is sort of improvisation, in the way that jazz musicians improvise, but in a very precise way... In jazz, as in life, you choose whether to introduce a particular [musical or other] phrase at a particular juncture, or to move to a different rhythm.”
That latter element is also a component of his work.
“I can see something, but may not take a picture of it right then,” he explains. “I can store it in my own memory, to be used at some later stage. A lot of the works in this exhibition, and other things I have done, are the result of things that I have stored inside me for quite a while, and which I brought out when I felt the time was ripe.”
That is certainly reflected in the timing of “Almost Black” – Adar’s first solo exhibition after over three decades of earnest endeavor in the photographic field.
“It’s not something I was really conscious of, but it seems that I am not in a hurry to do anything in particular,” he muses. “It took all this time for me to put on my first one-man show, because that’s just the way it worked out. It wasn’t premeditated... This is apparently when it was supposed to happen, and that’s fine with me.”
Many of the works in “Almost Black” exude a strong sense of the here and now, and some impart a keen sense of the visceral. One of the largest prints – he did not give any of them titles – has a spidery, tangled undergrowth lower stratum with a blank, black top part. Despite the absence of any detail, the upper section seems creamy and eminently inviting.
“Yes. If you fell onto something like that, you’d find it was soft and comfortable,” notes Adar. “I wanted to get that sort of effect, which is why I used a special, and expensive, kind of print paper for this.”
And all but one of the pictures were taken in this country.
“I am very bonded with Israel and its landscapes,” says the artist.
But why “Almost Black”? What was he looking for when he decided – at least on the surface – to eschew almost all the color spectrum in favor of a black-and-white form of presentation? “All these photographs are color shots,” he says.
“Monochrome is an entirely different working tool. I don’t see the world in black and white. There is a lot of color in the world, and in my life.”
“Almost Black” is curated by Eyal Ben-Dov and closes at the Agripas 12 gallery on December 25. There will be a gallery talk on December 21 at 12 noon. For more information: 077-450-4265 or