Inspiring photographers

One man’s photography hobby has turned into a Facebook hit with 70 members from eight countries who post weekly photos on a predetermined theme.

Repetition (photo credit: courtesy)
(photo credit: courtesy)
It’s a place in cyberspace – on Facebook, to be exact – where photographers submit photos on a different theme each week. And although it’s now in its third year online, this month was the first time that the 52 Frames project materialized into an exhibition.
The best of the photo prints were hung on walls at Tel Aviv’s Cookies Cream Bar last week to be viewed and sold, and became the focus of quite a party.
The second floor of Cookies Cream is dedicated to art exhibitions, and this one attracted at least 100 members of Tel Aviv’s art-hungry public. Music from upstairs pounded down the nondescript alley where the old-fashioned building sits. The crowd waiting to get in was so large that security had to be called in to control the flow. At the door, volunteers gave out name tags and encouraged visitors to sign up for the 52 Frames newsletter.
One room was set up with comfortable couches and lamps, although the crowd mostly stayed on their feet, sipping wine or beer and drifting around to view the photographs. Whenever a print was sold, everyone clapped and the new owner held it up for people to see.
Yosef Adest, a 32-year-old, energetic, bearded immigrant from New York, began 52 Frames in 2010 as a hobby. The project, which exists only on Facebook, now counts 70 active members from eight countries and more than 1,800 active followers. The object of the exhibition was twofold: to show and sell the photographs, and to provide a time and place for the photographers – indiscriminately called “artists” – to finally meet and mingle in real life.
Of the 70 participating artists, 25 were present at the exhibition, with some coming from as far away as Australia and Barbados.
“It really takes a lot of discipline to post a photo each week. It is much more difficult than it looks,” Adest said in a short speech at the party. “It’s the dedication and commitment that make us all stronger creatively.”
Speaking to Metro afterward, he says his goal is “to foster creative growth among participating artists and followers. 52 Frames unites professional and amateur photographers in expressing themselves and getting their work out to the masses.
It’s a creative oasis in people’s lives, a real mix of talents, with participants of all ages, backgrounds and professional levels.”
Artists must submit their best photos by the Sunday night deadline, when they’re collected as an album on the 52 Frames Facebook page. Themes range from abstract topics such as “Tell A Story” to photographic challenges like “Minimalist.”
Every photographer freely interprets the week’s theme as he or she perceives it.
One might expect the theme “Love” to show standard images of couples kissing, for instance, and there are those – but there’s also a startling image of a young woman with her lips open and realistic blood dripping down her long neck from two “vampire” punctures, while a man with bloodied lips stands blurred behind her.
Another, on the theme of humor, shows a chicken hesitating at the edge of a busy road.
Laura Ben-David, one of the artists, bubbles over with enthusiasm for the project.
“It’s an amazing global community.
Amateurs are sometimes afraid to join, but people connected through the project support and help each other in their work,” she says. “It’s not about the skill, it’s about the desire to photograph and participate. It forces us out of our comfort zone, it pushes us. I was no great photographer, but over the time I’ve been participating, my skills improved beyond anything I dreamed of. Now people are hiring me to take photographs.”
Another aspect that appeals to her, she says, is that “everyone has ownership of the project. At the end of the year, the members make a conference call and everyone decides on the weekly themes for the coming year.”
The exhibition, she adds, “was a great meet-up for people who mostly knew each other online.”
“It’s run by everyone,” Adest affirms modestly. “I just organize it. And I participate in it myself.”
Though I, too, express an interest in joining, I admit to feeling somewhat intimidated. What if I don’t understand the critiques? “It’s an open, non-judgmental environment,” he assures me. “If you don’t understand, someone will give a clearer version. Or you can look it up on Google and go back to the critique.”
He adds that the project “makes you do things you’d never think of, like getting a neighbor’s children to pose for you, or taking a ladder into the park [for the levitation theme]. Being aware of the Sunday deadline also pushes the participants.”
Adest wants 52 Frames to be as inclusive as possible, while still encouraging a certain level of quality. Discussions are lively on the Facebook page, which includes an ongoing “Meet the Photographer” post, questions and linksharing.
Judging by the comments on the page, commitment to the project has changed people’s lives for the better.
“When I look back on one of the most horrible years I’ve had in my life, and I try to think of the positive things that happened this year, the 52 Frames project is one of them. I feel that the need to enter a photo each week, even though it has been a crappy week, keeps me going and keeps me creative – even though I feel like it’s the last thing I want at the moment,” writes one commenter.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This photo project has honestly made me view the world differently,” says another.
“If there’s nothing more than that, I can walk away happy.”