I discovered the following color expression as I started to work on the Gradient project in July-August 2007, Documenting the rapid change in the landscape which characterizes the Coastal Road (from Tel Aviv to Haifa). When I looked at the pictures, I felt a great disappointment, for they did not reflect what I experienced in the field. They were similar to what I saw but did not make visible the heavy heat I felt on my flesh and the bright light that strike the eyes.
A few weeks after I began, Adobe released the beta version of Lightroom software into the digital space. I started to use it and found the familiar Hue/ Saturation tool from Photoshop, but visually it was different. It was organized similarly to an equalizer in music systems. This fresh arrangement of indicators made me look at appearances that combine color and black and white differently than I knew and thinking about color as representing other values than a realistic representation of detail.
At the same time, I also looked at the engravings made in the country in the 19th century, in particular, I focused on David Roberts's painted etchings, as they reflected light and color experience.
When I removed the colors using this tool, I received a muddy gray picture. So I increased the contrast and highlights. Although what I'm going to say will be trivial to any painter, it was a discovery for me: In the black and white picture, the contrast arises from differences in luminosity. While in color, the contrast appears from the balance between cold and warm tones. As I increased the brightness and contrast, I reproduced the expression of the bright light experience I felt while standing in the field - a light that forces me to close my eyelids. Then I started to bring the colors back into the picture in a measured and variable way, and I also changed the tendency of some of the colors to cool and warm tones. At that moment, the meaning of the colors changed. Instead of representing the details realistically, they rendered other values expressing the reality I experienced: heat, glair, dryness, and growth.
From that moment in addition to the documentary aspect, I also began to explore photographic color palettes. This investigation is related to an early concept in black and white photography- the Pre-Visualization: The photographers had a set of color filters they placed in front of the lens and rendered the natural colors into different black and white palettes. So did I. When facing the landscapes, I learned to see the possibilities in my mind. I was glad that I was continuing a photographic tradition and maybe adding something new of my own.
I photographed the landscapes for three years (2007-2010). I named the project "Gradient" because:
It's the first photograph I made in The Jerusalem Show series, and it is significant as it has revealed several discoveries to me. To understand my excitement, I will introduce the discoveries through a story (after-all the process is most important):
At the end of the first semester of my third year of study, I found myself without direction about the annual project I had to do. I tried to turn in a conceptual direction that didn't reveal anything to myself (for me it is obvious - if there is no discovery, there is no excitement, and it will not work). I went downtown to get inspired. I took my new digital reflex camera - a Canon 10D which had arrived from B&H two weeks earlier. (I purchased it to save the little money I earned from wedding photography due to the need to buy and develop the film, etc.) I was sure I'm just going to do sketch shots. None of us thought at the time that a camera like this can be taken seriously. Everybody said: "It doesn't have enough resolution... not enough color depth, etc." We were all Pixel Pipers from the first second.
I arrived at the city center and climbed on the stage in the center of Zion Square. I saw the Model and the man who suffered from Down-Syndrome. I quickly installed the camera on the tripod and took a photo. I wanted to have more people in the picture (I already had the experience from the "Sabbath Square" photo knowing how to assemble details from different shots). I wanted to do something weird, a bit like Fellini. In the distance, I saw an ultra-Orthodox family. I thought it could be nice if they appeared in the picture but, I had a problem, how to get them photographed?! - On the one hand, I can't move the camera away from its position, because then I won't be able to install the family in the final picture. On the other hand, I can't go to them and leave the camera behind because someone might steal it..., so I decided to shout and wave at them. They approached, and I asked if they would agree to stand for a family portrait.
To my delight, they said: "Yes, where do you want us to stand?"
I replied: "To the left of the concrete."
The father: "And how do you want us to stand?"
Me: "Just like you do for a wedding photo." (At the time I was working as an assistant to ultra-Orthodox wedding photographers, I used to run with a "Lomidine" flash, completing the lighting. At the beginning of a wedding, the whole family would gather for studio shots on sets with printed backgrounds such as palace halls and European forests. Even though the families always stood the same way, they did so in full devotion).
The Orthodox family approached the scene, each knowing their exact location. There was a lot of noise around, and I had to shout while I was directing them- I wanted to see the baby. People heard my screams and came to see what was happening. Within five minutes, a queue of thirty people was waiting for me to take their picture.
I photographed the people one after another, individuals and groups. Thanks to my new supernatural photographic ability - to see on the camera monitor where their predecessors stood, I directed them precisely to fit into the Decisive Moment. At one point, I saw the dwarf looking from the side. I asked him: "Would you like to be photographed?"
He: "Who? Me?"
Me: "Yes. I think you'll be wonderful in this picture."
He stepped into the stage which is the scene. Suddenly a woman emerged and put her arm around his shoulders. I knew I earned a gift.
(While I was working, a mix of photographers went through my mind: Richard Avedon, Garry Winogrand, Jeff Wall, Gabriel Bassilico).
I photographed each person who was standing in line for me. I was tired and felt I had all I needed. Just before I moved the camera, a guy in a white shirt came up to me and said: "I want you to take my picture." (He didn't seem interesting to me. Also, just a minute ago, I was photographing a beautiful boy with blond hair holding two Saluki dogs). I told him: "I have to go, but for you I'll wait five minutes, if you bring someone else with you, I'll take your picture. After two minutes, he showed up with his friend. "Now you're photographing us!" he said. The guy he brought with him was even more boring, but he had a dog next to him. I asked: "yours?"
He replied: "Yes!"
I said: "If you hold him, I'll photograph you."
When I returned home, I assembled the picture. I looked at the characters, and there they were: the Down-Syndrome and the Model, the Ultra-Orthodox family, the Gays with their dog, and an odd couple in the center. Everyone- standing and presenting themselves in front of their beautiful background.
I said to myself, "This is the Jerusalem I know."
The day before, I took pictures of the crossings from the roof. As usual, I developed the film, chose a frame from the contact print and enlarged it to 30*40 cm. When I looked at the picture I said to myself, "how cool will it be if the building would rise up high."
Came back in the next morning and I went up to the roof to take a standard panorama, when I looked down I felt I was too far from people. So I went down two floors and put my "emergency yarmulke" on my head (this is an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood), knocked on the door and when the tenants opened and asked me, "What do you want?" I replied: "I have to take pictures of the wonderful view you have." After shooting the crossings, I wanted to continue taking the panorama but I was too high and didn't see the front of the building properly, so I asked the tenants to help me get into their neighbors apartment which is two floors below. The neighbors from the second floor welcomed me. I took a photo of the building's facade and then went up to the roof to photograph the distant view (Of course at that time I had no idea what I was doing and what adventure I was getting into ...). I went back to 'Bezalel' and developed the films. In the evening, I removed them from the dryer and went for the first time in my life to scan them (I actually sneaked in to use the new Imacon scanner that only fourth year students were allowed to use).
At the time I didn't have my own computer and for the first time I went into the computer lab to work in Photoshop (it is important to understand that most students were very suspicious of digital photography). The file in the working stages reached a very large weight - close to two gigabytes. The computers at the time were the Mac G3 type and every time I hit "save" it would take me out for a 20 minute break. At the end of the evening at 11pm, I would start with the burning saga: I would divide the image into sections not exceeding 600 megabytes so that I could burn the parts of the image to discs (this process took about an hour). The next evening at about 5pm, I would sit down again at the computer, upload the image parts and bringing them together so I could continue working on the picture as a whole. That's how I worked day after day for two and a half weeks. After 150 hours of work the file was ready. When I printed it I knew I was facing something amazing.