Israelis with disabilities are focus in TA exhibit ‘At Eye Level’

The large, mainly black-and-white photographs focus a lens on people with special needs who are participants in SHEKEL’s vocational rehabilitation programs.

 ‘AT EYE LEVEL’ (photo credit: SHARON GABAY/SHEKEL)
‘AT EYE LEVEL’
(photo credit: SHARON GABAY/SHEKEL)

A distinctive and moving photo exhibition titled At Eye Level, featuring close-up portraits of people with disabilities, photographed by Sharon Gabay, was launched at the Tel Aviv Municipality at 69 Ibn Gvirol St., on December 1, to mark the beginning of Israel’s Disability Rights Awareness Month. The exhibition is open to the public free of charge until the end of December, in the main lobby.

The opening ceremony was attended by some 200 people including Lihi Lapid, the president of the organization SHEKEL – Inclusion for People with Disabilities, and the wife of Prime Minister Yair Lapid; Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai; Social Welfare Minister Meir Cohen; Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar; SHEKEL chairperson Clara Feldman; SHEKEL CEO Offer Dahary; Director of Tel Aviv Social Services Sharon Melamed; and Tel Aviv Autism Services Coordinator Segal Harari, who curated the exhibition.

The large, mainly black-and-white photographs focus a lens on people with special needs who are participants in SHEKEL’s vocational rehabilitation programs and residents of SHEKEL’s “living in the community housing” from Jerusalem and Petah Tikva. Each photograph presents a portrait of its subject as an individual, spotlighting their unique personalities. The exhibition was initiated by SHEKEL as a means of presenting people with special needs to the public by bringing them to the forefront of Israel’s social and cultural stage.

Huldai and Lapid

Huldai spoke of his pride in opening the Disability Rights Awareness Month in Tel Aviv with the exhibition, emphasizing the important services for people with disabilities offered in the city. 

Lapid spoke movingly of the need to slow down and look at the people around us with disabilities. She mentioned a poignant moment during the photo shoot when a young woman began to cry after being photographed. When Lapid asked her why she was crying, the young woman replied: “Because I was photographed, yes, me! They actually wanted to photograph me.” 

 Israeli journalist and author Lihi Lapid speaks at an event at the Tel Aviv International Salon on August 12, 2013 (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90) Israeli journalist and author Lihi Lapid speaks at an event at the Tel Aviv International Salon on August 12, 2013 (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Cohen expressed his happiness at being present at the exhibition and his powerful feeling of being “drawn into each of the photographs and embracing each of the subjects.” He expressed his deep appreciation for the work being done by SHEKEL and the Tel Aviv Municipality, saying, “Step by step, great strides are being made on a daily basis in Israel in the area of disabilities.”

Photographer Sharon Gabay spoke of spending time with one of his photographic subjects, a man who is blind and has developmental disabilities: “I saw the respect shown towards him by the SHEKEL staff person who was helping him, he was not simply treated caringly but at eye level, as an equal.” In each portrait, Gabay said he was careful to relate to his subjects at eye level, which became the title of the exhibition. Gabay worked on the exhibition pro-bono.

The exhibition was first shown at the Jerusalem Theatre in September, where it was launched at a salute to Feldman, in honor of her 32 years as SHEKEL CEO and as a visionary in the field of disability inclusion.