Memory is an artistic collaboration between time and the mind, certain images are selected and will come to represent those moments in our lives, and in the greater world around us. As the calendar year comes to a close, we tend to look back on that internal photo album and reflect on the passing year. What moments do we remember, and what have we already forgotten?
Local Testimony is an annual exhibition that features the year as seen through the lens of news photographers. Currently showing at the Eretz Israel Museum, this year’s exhibition is curated by Israeli photographer Vardi Kahana, and presents photographs in seven categories: news, religion and community, urbanism and culture, nature and environment, sports, photo narrative and the summer of 2014. In a preview tour of the exhibit that took place on Tuesday, December 16, Kahana told journalists that about 8,000 photographs were sent in to the committee this year, of these, 250 photographs by 69 photographers are on exhibit. The photographs are submitted anonymously, so that the committee selects photographs to exhibit, and not photographers. Only professional photographers (those affiliated with a newspaper, or independent photographers whose work appears in the media or exhibitions) may participate.
This past summer, with all its painful moments, looms large in this exhibition. The image chosen as “Photograph of the Year” is Yuval Chen’s photo (taken on July 31, 2014) of Noa, the girlfriend of 20 year old St. Sgt. Guy Algranati, killed by an explosion in Gaza, as she stands by his grave, surrounded by his friends from the combat unit. Curator Kahana discussed the choice of this image, saying, “Photographs of war funerals have become almost clichés. The ceremony itself has a certain structure with which we are all familiar, and in repetition acquires an aspect of cliché. Yuval succeeded in capturing that ‘decisive moment’ and revealing the personal story. She stands, reaching out her hand, questioning, almost like a heroine in Greek tragedy, surrounded by the chorus [the soldiers], the witnesses to all that took place.”
The local perspective is accompanied by the wider reach of World Press Photo, a traveling exhibition of the best news photography from around the world. The two adjacent exhibitions are shown within the same space, designed by Tal Gur and Liya Kohavi, with the photographs hung from the ceiling floating in mid-air. There is no partition between Local Testimony and World Press Photo, one walks freely between the particular and the general, local and global, individual and universal. The timelines of the two exhibitions are a bit different: World Press Photo features photographs from January – December 2013, while Local Testimony documents the year from September 2013 – August 2014. World Press Photo of the Year 2014 is John Stanmeyer’s poetic image of African immigrants on the shore of Djibouti City at night, holding up their cell phones trying to catch a signal from Somalia.
There are many moving, inspiring, beautiful and painful photographs in this thought provoking exhibition. Looking at the local view, the many images of war, violence, pain and suffering felt overwhelming, and I had to ask myself: is this what our lives look like? My own answer is both yes and no. No, because there is so much that I feel did not receive enough representation in Local Testimony: the everyday lives of people, the intimate details of family and friendships, the music, the rhythm of the streets. Yes, because conflict and violence are a central part of our lives in this region, and if we want to change the picture, to shift the balance in the photo album, we need to make choices to change this reality.
Local Testimony and World Press Photo 2014
Local Testimony Initiator and Manager – Dana Wohlfieler-Lalkin; Jury panel: Zachi Becker, Deputy Director General of Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv; Deganit Berest, Artist and Teacher; Noam Gal, Photography Curator at the Israel Museum; Vardi Kahana, Photographer and Curator of Local Testimony 2014; Hanoch Marmari, Editor of the Seventh Eye Journal; Yon Feder, Chief Editor, Yedioth Internet; Avi Koren, Film Photographer and Teacher; Micha Kirshner, Artist and Teacher; Moran Shoub, Photographer, Curator and Member of the Local Testimony Editorial Board.
Eretz Israel Museum, 2 Haim Levanon Street, Tel Aviv, 03-6415244
The exhibition will be open until January 24, 2015. Opening hours: Sunday – Wednesday 10:00 – 16:00; Thursday and Saturday 10:00 – 22:00; Friday 10:00 – 14:00. Tickets are 48 NIS adults; 32 NIS student/soldier; 24 NIS seniors; children free.