Pictures from Jerusalem

February 14, 2016 by Keren Cook
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An Auckland-based award-winning photographer is giving New Zealanders the opportunity to see the real Jerusalem through a recent exhibition.

Ilan Wittenberg is a New Zealand photographer, originally from Israel and has produced approximately 30 large portraits, which will be exhibited at Te Uru Contemporary Art Gallery in Auckland.ilan.

His show, Faces of Jerusalem, show merchants who run stalls set up the Old City. The artist created the images in January 2015 and says they offer a glimpse into the lives of his subjects. His vision to capture the merchants with a natural expression in ambient light offered the authenticity that Wittenberg was looking for.

ilan2It’s the diversity of both culture and religion that interests Wittenberg, combined with the vibrancy of the merchants and markets – all compelling source material.

“It’s a different world,” says Wittenberg

ilan1“I wanted to know – who are these people? What is life like? And to build a strong, more engaging profile,” he says.

Wittenberg has been regularly scooping up local and national awards in New Zealand. These recent black and white portraits earned him the prestigious Auckland Photographer of the Year 2015 award.

The project began as his fellowship application to the Photographic Society of New Zealand.

Regular trips to Israel in 2015 enabled him to build his imagery and portfolio. During his time there he explored the physicality of the cobbled streets, and the diversity of faith and culture, seen in the Jewish, Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters.

ilan3Wittenberg connected with the merchants and on many occasions he was able to discuss the issues that were affecting them.

“Many people are not happy, you can see that. But for good reasons: the economy is down.

“There are very few customers and very little foot traffic because there is a lot of stress in the streets.

“Wars, religious tension and the ongoing political conflict scare the tourists away.”

For Wittenberg the contrast of these black and white portraits allows the viewer to focus on the faces of his subjects. He also says the drama of the images are increased in the monochromatic – focusing on the formal qualities of contrast and structure.

Since his last visit, violence and unrest has changed in the region, making these photographs somewhat historical, Wittenberg says.

The Faces of Jerusalem shows at Te Uru Gallery, Titirangi, Auckland from February 20 to May 1.

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