Curator: Dr. Guy Morag Tzepelewitz
1.3.2018 - 10.4.2018
The current exhibition presents two thematic series of extraordinary photographs by Micha Bar-Am, never before exhibited in this form to an Israeli audience. Each series in its own way engages in erasure and change, addressing the obliteration of identity, the presence of meaning, and its replacement with a different meaning.
During years of work, Bar-Am created innumerable images reflecting the processes undergone by the State of Israel, its residents and environs, from the 1950s to the present. He took his camera on combat operations with the IDF, to war, and between wars, risking his own life to take photographs of the soldiers.
Many of Bar-Am’s photographs from the battlefields and elsewhere are considered canonical, groundbreaking images, due mainly to the human presence that provides them with an additional layer of meaning. This human element is rough due greatly to the human presence providing them with an additional layer of meaning. However, this human element is mostly absent from the works on view in the current exhibition.
In the series “Personal Mythology,” Bar-Am photographed beds and hotel rooms he lived in over the years. The first photograph in the series was taken in the New York home of Cornell Capa (younger brother of Robert Capa), in 1968. Bar-Am tells of the many discussions they held during his visit, conversing from morning to night entirely about photography, devoted to the subject body and soul. One morning after he woke up, Bar-Am noticed that the light creeping through the window bars onto his unmade created a what looked like a new, interesting landscape, almost a topographical map of a nonexistent place.
This photograph became the first in a series he continued for years, whether during his professional activities or his various trips abroad. For Bar-Am, these “bedscapes” are a dramatization formed unnoticed, a collection of travel experiences commemorated lest he forgets them. The folds and wrinkles seem to be marks of life, dream drawings erased daily by the hotel workers as they prepared for the next temporary tenant for the room. )It is interesting to note that Bar-Am never photographed his own bed).
The second series comprises photographs Bar-Am took throughout the West Bank from 1987-1992. Shown are walls of houses with violently written graffiti against the Israeli occupation. These graffiti were also erased violently, spray-painted over by the IDF and by rival political groups. Through Bar-Am’s camera, these two layers of power plays on the walls produced a fascinating outcome which is colorful and aesthetic, bringing to mind abstract art. The photographer’s vision has created a new layer, bursting the limits defining “documentation,” as a poem flourishing from between the stones.
Micha Bar-Am (b. 1930, Germany) is one of the last giants of Israeli photography. He initiated and established the Photography Department of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and was the first Israeli photographer accepted into the international Magnum Agency. Bar-Am was Mideast photographer for the New York Times and was awarded the Israel Prize in 2000 for his life’s work.