'You have to flip a switch in your head': Ariel Jerozolimski

shoosh pal 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
shoosh pal 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
They come and go in a flash - the moments that Ariel Jerozolimski captures in "Freeze Frame," snapshots of life's funny contrasts. As much as he loves to snare such moments, Jerozolimski hates when one gets away. "I was passing the Old City of Jerusalem once when I noticed a group of monks carrying televisions over their heads - you don't expect that, right? - but by the time I could stop and take out my camera, they had gone," he laments. "It's well known that I'm always on the lookout for things like that. Once I was on vacation in Turkey when my daughter, seeing a funny situation, called out, 'Look, Daddy! A Freeze Frame!'" Jerozolimski's father, the editor of a Jewish newspaper in Uruguay, encouraged his son's two aspirations, photography and Zionism; when Ariel made aliya at age 18, he had already shot enough pictures for local newspapers to fund several upgrades to his camera. Jerozolimski started his military service in the Armored Corps, but he later moved to the IDF Spokesman's Office, where he took up photography again. After leaving the army, Jerozolimski worked at AFP's photo laboratory and shot pictures for the short-lived Hadashot newspaper, as well as a Jerusalem local newspaper. By early 1999, he was named chief photographer of The Jerusalem Post - which counts on him to provide not only his humorous slice-of-life pictures but also a significant amount of its news photography. Despite his affinity for capturing the playful and even bizarre images that crop up in Israeli life, Jerozolimski takes a serious approach to his work. "You have to flip a switch in your head and keep your cool," he says of covering the dramas, both political and security-related, that are commonplace in Jerusalem - whether that means rushing into the middle of a chaotic scene, or staying calm and finding just the right spot to capture that chaos on film. Like other news photographers, Jerozolimski admits that he is sometimes thrown for a loop while covering profoundly sad events, identifying with those who have struggled to continue shooting during the heart-rending moments. "There have been times when I was crying as I was shooting," Jerozolimski says matter-of factly. "You try very hard to disconnect your personal feelings - not to completely shut them off inside you, but to hold out as long as possible, to disconnect your personal pain and sorrow as much as possible, and to keep shooting. It's a huge emotional effort." But Jerozolimski is quick to note that news photographers are a lucky breed as well. "This job affords you the opportunity to do and to see things that most people will never do and see," he says. Things like worrying that the rickety old Russian airplane carrying an Israeli delegation of journalists over Uzbekistan will break apart and plummet back to earth at any moment, he jokes. Or like photographing the in-air refueling of an Israeli F-15 over Europe, plying the deep sea in an Israel Navy submarine or patrolling the coast with a Dabur team, he adds. And there are still plenty of funny moments - some of them, like the time an Argentinean aide suffered a revealing "wardrobe malfunction" at a public meeting with then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, that may never even appear in "Freeze Frame." Considering that there are so many photographers in the field today, Jerozolimski says, it is almost impossible to get an exclusive shot of an important event the likes of which built the careers of earlier generations of news photographers. That's why you have to try to make every picture as interesting and unique as possible, he adds. And as long as you're doing that, he says, "This job will never get old."