Her positive perspective

Karen Abramson finds the goodness in people from behind the lens

Karen Abramson 521 (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Karen Abramson 521
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
‘Iwill find beauty in anyone,” says photographer Karen Abramson, who made aliya from Britain in 2007. Specializing in portraiture, she will soon be displaying her works in the foyer of the Tel Aviv Opera House, where 12 of her works will hang for a month in an exhibition titled “Faces of Israel.”
In the six years since she arrived, she frequently left the home she shares with her husband, Martin, in Herzliya Pituah to travel all over the country with her faithful Nikon, often catching her subjects unawares.
“I love to photograph people in their own environment,” she says, “and we are such a melting pot here; there is no such thing as a typical Israeli face.”
The work in some way compensates for the difficulties she encountered in the first year – mainly loneliness, having left her three children and several grandchildren in England.
“I used to walk along the beach with my dog and ask myself what I’m doing here,” she recalls.
Since that initial time of confusion, she has become involved in serious charity work as well as pursuing her photography – and now, she says, she feels her aliya has meaning.
She still misses her family but says cheerfully that as long as there’s El Al, she can accept the separation.
“I’m very much a hands-on grandmother,” she says. “When they want me, I’m there.”
She and Martin were both very keen Jewish National Fund workers back in Manchester, and that’s how they met.
Always a passionate Zionist, Karen became chairperson of the Manchester group and even presided over the glittering event that brought Bill Clinton over as guest speaker in 2001. “We raised a lot of money,” she says.
Living in Israel was always a consideration and they had owned a home here for many years.
They were here within two weeks of deciding to make aliya and soon after, she rented space in a Tel Aviv studio and set up as a photographer specializing in children and later maternity. The business did not go smoothly at first.
“The Israeli attitude is ‘why would I want a photo of my child when I can see them every day?’” she reports half-jokingly.
“And when they did make appointments, they never arrived on time. I’ve had to learn to be extra tolerant.”
When she’s not traveling around the country, she’s at work in her studio. But Thursdays are reserved for another activity. That’s the day she travels to Jerusalem to volunteer with the charity Ohr Meir U’Bracha, which offers support for terror victims.
“I pack food parcels for Shabbat,” she explains. “It’s not glamorous the way the JNF work was, but it’s important.
We take care of 400 families who have been traumatized by terror in the past, people who can’t work and have many psychological problems.”
She got into the work through her rebbetzin back in Manchester, whom she would telephone to talk about her loneliness at the beginning. “She put me in touch with Liora Tedgi, a terror victim herself, who founded and runs the charity, and after I began helping, suddenly everything had a meaning,” she says.
If she sells any photos from her exhibition, she intends to donate a percentage to the charity.
“If there’s not enough money, people will go hungry,” she says.
Another project she has become involved with is the OR Movement, established by two young men, Roni Flammer and Ofir Fisher to develop the Negev according to Ben-Gurion’s dream and to bring people from the overcrowded center of the country to new communities in the South.
“We got to know them also through our JNF work, and we’re very involved,” she says.
The Abramsons are keen patrons of the opera in Israel and Karen is very happy that her exhibition will be in a place she enjoys. “I think the cultural life here is beyond belief and I’m very happy to support the opera, which I believe in,” she says.
Choosing 12 pictures out of thousands was not an easy task but she feels she has picked a good representative selection of her work.
Growing up in the United Kingdom, she says she did not experience anti-Semitism, but nevertheless has a much greater sense of freedom to be herself in Israel.
“I really feel as though I belong here; I’m at home,” she says. “At home I can talk to the cleaner about what we’re both going to be cooking for Shabbat, what Purim outfits we’ll be looking for.
I fit in. I know it sounds corny but on Yom Ha’atzmaut [Independence Day] I feel such pride in my country.”
The exhibition will be the culmination of years that she has spent viewing the world from her own particular perspective.
“I always try to see the positive side and not the negative,” she says. “I’m very idealistic and I believe there is goodness in everyone – I try to bring that out in my photos.”