After gaining a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and an MBA in Information Technology, an artist realises his passion lies elsewhere and moves into the creative realm of photography. It sounds like a career fairy tale but for Ilan Wittenberg this is a reality. Now a distinguished portrait photographer whose enthusiasm stemmed from reading Time Life books and National Geographic magazine as a child, Wittenberg spends most of his time creating portraits and fine art.
Arriving in New Zealand in 2001, Ilan’s journey as a photographer began relatively recently in 2011 but he was quickly recognized as one to watch, winning a plethora of national and international awards. “This place is a dream come true” says Wittenberg. and he is now thrilled to be working in an eye-opening field that enables him to get amongst New Zealand’s culture. The people, the atmosphere and the landscape here have contributed to Wittenberg’s shift into a photographic career, where he enjoys exercising his creative spirit.
In 2014 Wittenberg was given the wonderful opportunity of presenting three themes of photography on Auckland’s scenic waterfront. Titled Black, White & Colour, it was his first endeavor to share his creations with the public in a solo exhibition, featuring portraiture, landscape and fine art. He says it was an invigorating experience to delve into, exploring his competence in creating abstract pieces. Wittenberg aimed to break through the clutter of the thousands of images we see daily by telling a story through his work, emphasizing the potential which photography has to touch peoples’ lives.
During 2015, Wittenberg had the opportunity to pursue one of his true passions: documenting people in the Old City of Jerusalem. His exciting journey took him through twisted and narrow streets where merchants are proud to market their goods. Ilan’s unique eye and his ability to create quick rapport with his subjects enabled him to produce a compelling portfolio of monochrome photographs, capturing their character and the special atmosphere using ambient light only. Faces of Jerusalem was chosen to be exhibited at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery in early 2016 and was featured in f11 Magazine as well as in Art New Zealand magazine. Ilan won the Travel Photographer of the Year award from TRAVCOM for selected photos from this collection.
Ilan went on to become a Finalist of both the Documentary category and the Portrait Classic category in the 2015 Iris Awards by the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography. Wittenberg then won the prestigious honour: 2015 Auckland Photographer of the Year and became a Fellow of the Photographic Society of New Zealand.
The Bare Truth is a captivating collection of portraits of New Zealand men who are humble, courageous and vulnerable. Their edgy portraits are presented in monochrome to emphasize their shape and form, using simple background to eliminate distractions so the viewer can focus on their body language and facial expression. The Bare Truth portfolio was chosen to be exhibited at the 2016 Head On Photo Festival in Sydney as well as the Signature Programme of the 2016 Auckland Festival of Photography. In 2016 Iris Awards Wittenberg won The Highest Scoring Print award for a set of nine portraits from this collection and became 2016 Auckland Photographer of the Year. It was featured in multiple news media including STUFF, Our Auckland, TV3 Story, The Wireless and Sunday Star Times. Ilan became a Fellow of the NZIPP after being a finalist in both the Travel category and Portrait Classic category. He then won the title Travel Photographer of the Year form TRAVCOM.
In 2018 Ilan won the Portrait category and the Grand Prize at the 2018 Sony Alpha awards. His winning photo was featured on the cover of D-Photo magazine together with a feature story from his travel to Morocco.
Ilan is an active judge in photo competitions by the Photographic Society of NZ as well as by the NZ Institute of Professional Photography. He is also a committee member of the Auckland branch of the NZIPP.