Arrivals: Capturing the moment

Herschel Gutman, 39, from Cape Town to Tel Aviv, 2009.

Herschel Gutman (photo credit: Courtesy)
Herschel Gutman
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As a Cape Town boy, Herschel Gutman’s activities centered mainly on sport.
“I was always involved in the sporting world – especially cricket,” he says.
“My team and club had every type of South African – black, colored, Muslims and Jews.”
He became a cricket coach who also worked in sports marketing. To round off his education, he did a degree in marketing and a photography course.
In 2000, in his bachelor days, Gutman spent about a year in Israel working with the Israel Cricket Association to create a junior cricket program. The following year he met his wife, Natasha, at a conference called the Landmark Forum. When the Cricket Association offered him a full-time job in 2008, the couple made aliya.
“We looked at it as an adventure,” Gutman says.
“We both were living good lives in South Africa after spending two years in London. The decision wasn’t so difficult, as our mind-set was that of ‘Let’s go and live in Israel and enjoy the experience.’ It was a great first year. Everything was new, exciting and fresh. We lived in central Tel Aviv and cycled everywhere.”
However, he ruefully describes his Hebrew as a work in progress.
Gutman worked at schools around Israel with Arab and Jewish children, including Beduin communities, though cricket for girls was hardly to be found. He also worked with the European branch of the International Cricket Council.
“So I would travel around running courses and coaching. I worked as the national coach for five years and was involved in many cricket-related projects here. Cricket in Israel has a small but strong following, and the Association has done excellently to keep on arranging league matches.”
Natasha comes from a tiny South African town called Oudtshoorn, once famed for ostrich feathers. She founded the Tel Aviv Art Studio in 2010 and gained a master’s degree in art therapy at the University of Haifa in 2013. Besides practicing art therapy, she gives classes to adults and children at the studio.
Although the couple had no first-degree relatives here, they met cousins and became close. Initially, however, their adjustment to Israel was a little shaky. Commitment came gradually, as Gutman puts it.
“I have no intentions of returning to South Africa, but moving here I had one foot in and one foot back there. When we made the decision to put two feet here and give it a real go, things became easier.”
Nonetheless, working solely in sport has limited prospects. Although he enjoyed the challenge of developing cricket in Israel, he realized after two or three years that he couldn’t continue.
“I was searching for a way out of cricket into a new career when my wife casually said to me, ‘Why don’t you take your photography more seriously?’” After considerable thought, Gutman became an event photographer. After investing a sizable sum in equipment, he posted on Facebook pictures of friends at parties. He told all his contacts that he was now in business and compiled a small portfolio, but somehow the party and event planners he contacted never got back to him.
He finally saw the light when a potential client told him: “Show me brides.
That’s what I want to see. Publicize yourself as a wedding photographer, then you can tackle everything.” This advice to focus on weddings helped his business grow, starting when he attended a friend’s wedding, camera in hand.
“They used lots of my photos for their album and from that, some of their guests contacted me to do some work.”
His background as a coach also taught him useful skills, such as patience.
“As a photographer you learn to become a therapist, a life coach, a mediator and a psychologist – so my experience as a sports coach for so many years really helped me create bonds with families and couples. You must connect with clients and spend time with them.”
Gutman usually invites the bridal couple to an engagement shoot.
“I watch to see their interaction.
They see how I work. I meet with them beforehand and take along a bottle of champagne. It’s a fun experience and everyone is relaxed. As the photographer and the bride and groom spend most of the wedding day together, there must be trust built.”
On one occasion he even hopped onto the back of a motorbike to get to the top of a mountain for a scenic shoot.
Some couples also introduce novel ideas at the wedding itself.
“One couple took along a hammer and broke the glass together in a unique display of togetherness.”
Besides the customary photos of bride, groom and family, he sometimes focuses on other significant details, such as the ring or the bouquet.
Above all, Gutman looks for meaningful and exciting moments.
“How does a photo resonate with you? How does it make you feel? It’s essential to capture the moment. If it makes you smile, laugh or cry – then it is a great photo,” he insists.
“Each photo is my business card. My photos have to wow my clients.”
Excessive drama can be painful though, like the time when a groom broke more than the glass under the huppa.
“The glass went straight through his foot and he had to have stitches afterwards.
It was a nasty cut – but he handled it well and learned very quickly to dance on one leg.”
Gutman has been a full-time photographer since 2013 and finds the editing lonely, though “the actual shooting of weddings is great fun.” He estimates that his work is 50 percent photography, and 50 percent editing.
“Once I made the decision to leave cricket and dive full time into photography, things fell into place for me, and being able to work in an environment that I like and enjoy definitely helps in the positive feelings about living in Israel.
But we both are enjoying running our own businesses, and that makes a massive difference.
“Israel will always be challenging, but if you have a positive outlook, I think you can thrive here,” he attests.
For Gutman the key was “working independently and being able to do what you love.”
On a personal note, after some trying times, Natasha is now expecting twins and the Gutmans are looking forward to some wow moments of their own and to a lively household.