Local Testimony 2017: Remembering Micha Kirshner 

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“Photography is subjective,” said Professor Micha Kirshner, last December, as he guided a group of journalists through the documentary photography exhibit under his curation, Local Testimony 2016, at the Eretz Israel Museum. Kirshner, who was the intended curator for this year’s exhibit, died in September 2017, and photographer Vardi Kahana, who has curated previous editions of Local Testimony, was appointed curator in his stead.  A commemorative exhibit, with a selection of Kirshner’s photographs, is on display at the museum.

Keren Mor/Photo: Micha Kirshner

Photographer and teacher, Professor Micha Kirchner made a lasting impact on photography in Israel, and educated generations of photographers. Over the years, his photographs were exhibited in group exhibitions in museums and galleries in Israel and abroad. Many of these photographs will be familiar to museum visitors, as the images have become cultural landmarks, whether photographs of politicians such as Shimon Peres, popular entertainers like Keren Mor, or cultural figures such as Adam Baruch, founder of the long-defunct journal Monitin.

Tami Ben Ami/Photo: Micha Kirshner

“Kirshner was the photographer who brought the opinion portrait to the world of news media,” Curator Kahana said in describing the exhibit, “I’m talking about the kind of photograph when he takes a photo of Tami Ben Ami or Aba Even, it is Micha Kirshner commenting on Israeliness through the portrait of Aba Even, using his subject to make a larger statement on Israeli society. What appears elementary to us today, Micha Kirshner was the first to do so here.”

Photo: Micha Kirshner

Among the works is Kirshner’s 1988 portrait of Aisha El-Kord from the Khan Yunis refugee camp who was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet. Kahana relates that “Kirshner went to Gaza and the West Bank to document the people who were hurt during the Intifiada, from a desire to put a face to the Palestinian wound… Micha was criticized from both the left and the right. The people on the right said – why don’t you focus on the Israeli sadness, and the people on the left criticized him for making the pain beautiful. His involvement with the aesthetics of photography bothered many people. The cliché – if both sides get mad you must have done something right, is apt for Micha. He succeeded in creating images that connect us to this formative event in the Israeli experience.”

A panel discussion, dedicated to the memory of Micha Kirshner, on the connection between photography, art, and journalism, will take place on Saturday, December 23, 2017. The discussion will be moderated by Vardi Kahana, and the panel speakers will be: Galia Bar-Or, Avi Ganor, Simha Shirman, Zipa Kempinsky, Alex Libak, Yuval Bitton, Sagit Zelor-Namir, and Mark Isaev. The talk will take place at 19:30, admission to the panel discussion is included in the museum ticket, but space is limited. Reserve your place on the Eretz Israel Museum website.

Local Testimony 2017 will be open through January 20, 2018