Tuesday, September 27

What Do You See?

by Freddie Kelvin

That doyen of American landscape photographyAnsel Adamsonce said: "A photograph is usually looked atseldom looked into." Of course, images of people tend to provoke more questions than those of nature-especially if the viewer is unaware of the context. Here are several photos from recent trips to Israel. I'll tell you what thoughts they arouse in me. What springs into your minds will likely not bear any similarity. Vive la difference!

(Fig. 1 Safed.)
(Fig. 1 Safed.) An Ultra-orthodox Jew walks past an ultramodern shop selling fine art Judaica. Does he approve of this commercialization of his proudly held heritage, or is he disgusted by such an unholy alliance of old and new? The winding lanes of the artists' quarter in Safed are filled with such shops, which seem to be the main tourist attraction. Meanwhile, the venerable synagogues have fallen into variable states of disrepair. A sad state of affairs.

(Fig. 2 Umm El Fahm.) 
(Fig. 2 Umm El Fahm.)  A young Arab girl readily poses for a photograph in Umm El Fahmm, a city of 43,000, nearly all of whose inhabitants are Arab citizens of Israel. This city is often described as a hotbed of Palestinian nationalism. We are a group of American Jews on a Jewish Agency excursion. What does the girl think of our intrusion into her world? Is she being paid to be photographed in order to promote co-operation between Arabs and Jews? I should confess we felt slightly nervous in this city!

(Fig. 3 Jerusalem.)
(Fig. 3 Jerusalem.) An old lady in the soup kitchen of Hazon Yeshaya in Jerusalem. Every time I look at this haunting image, I ask myself why she has stopped eating. Was she too depressed or feeble, or was she lost in a multitude of far-away thoughts? She spoke to no-one, and no-one spoke to her. Close-by, in the nearby dining room, others in hunger clawed at the trays of food being handed out. I doubt the old lady was even aware of the commotion.

(Fig. 4 Sde Boker.)
(Fig. 4 Sde Boker.) An Israeli army induction ceremony takes place in Sde Boker, just in front of the tombstones of David Ben Gurion and his wife, Paula. The high location overlooks desert hills in the far distance. During this solemn occasion, each soldier receives his or her rifle as well as a copy of the Bible. With these at their side, they will defend their country and its right to exist. As I watched, I was almost in tears... for these were innocent kids, forced into a risk-filled, precocious maturity.

As a tourist, one rarely has enough time to reflect before being whisked off to the next site or attraction. Nowhere is this more true than in Israel, where so much is crowded into such a precariously small area. Everywhere you go, you will find unforgettable sights and a warmth that will resonate deeply. But, remember to take your camera, even if only a point and shoot or an iPhone. Some of the pictures you take, whatever your skill level, will capture those fleeting moments destined to become indelible memories.
More About Freddie Kelvin


  1. The ultra orthodox gentleman, to me at least, doesn't seem present to those things of the secular world that don't directly affect his safety or interests. I'm not sure he registers the gallery.

  2. Freddie, I really enjoyed reading about the back story behind these gorgeous photographs. There is always a story and you have made me wonder too.