https://ilanwittenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/DSC5342-Edit.jpg 1280 1920 Ilan Wittenberg https://ilanwittenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Ilan-Wittenberg-website-logo-ver-3.2.png Ilan Wittenberg2022-04-26 13:07:222022-04-26 13:09:26Faces of Jerusalem Artist Statement
Beggars and scholars, slaves and warriors have all walked the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. In early 2015, Auckland Photographer of the Year Ilan Wittenberg set out to capture the stoic nature of its inhabitants. The result is a compelling collection of portraits – ‘Faces of Jerusalem’ – which will go on display at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery.
Born in Israel, Ilan has visited the UNESCO World Heritage site on numerous occasions. However, it was during a recent family trip that the idea to produce a portfolio of portraits (for his fellowship application to the Photographic Society of New Zealand) first took form. Not wanting to hold up the family, Ilan returned by himself in January 2015 and spent days exploring the winding, cobbled streets and tiny, dimly lit shops of the Muslim, Jewish, Armenian and Christian quarters.
While his collection of striking monochrome images captures a range of people going about their daily lives, it was the city’s merchants that Wittenberg was particularly drawn to. “Many people are not happy, you can see that,” says Ilan, “but that’s 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.”
Wanting to create quick rapport and a relaxed environment, Ilan introduced himself as a New Zealander (which he has been since arriving in the country in 2001). “Oh Kiwi, welcome” would be the typical response, which cleared the opportunity to create a photograph. Where language permitted, he engaged his subjects in further conversation, to produce more engaging portraits than candid documentary photography usually does. “These photos were taken without a flash or a tripod, using ambient light only. I chose to present the prints in monochrome to eliminate distracting colours and help focus the viewer’s attention on the people, their body language and their expression. The sepia tone also provides a timeless atmosphere to the images, which reflect the rich culture and turbulent history of Jerusalem.
His journey as a photographer started relatively recently in 2011, but Ilan has already been given the honour of Fellow of the Photographic Society of New Zealand as well as a Master of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography. Selected prints from ‘Faces of Jerusalem’ portfolio contributed to the body of work that won Wittenberg the prestigious title of NZIPP 2015 Auckland Photographer of the Year. The collection also took first place in the Documentary Book section of the 2015 Moscow International Foto Awards, a competition that attracted entries from 84 countries.
‘Faces of Jerusalem’ was exhibited at Te Uru Gallery from February 20 to May 1.
In August 2016, Ilan won the title Travel Photographer of the Year by the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards which are organised by Travcom (New Zealand Travel Communicators) to celebrate excellence in travel writing and photography.
The photography awards were judged by a panel of three; Rob Lile, director of One Shot image library, Jenny Nicholls, Art Director for North & South magazine and Tessa Chrisp, past winner of the Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award. The Travel Photographer of the Year is judged on the entire portfolio of published work.
Rob Lile said: “This year a clear and unanimous favourite appeared amongst the many images put forward for the scrutiny of a tough judging panel. While there were many images that caught our eye and invited second and third viewings, one series stood out, indicating the work of a master visual storyteller. Ilan’s images transported us to centuries-old locations to examine modern lives intertwined with layers of time. They displayed patience and sensitivity as a storyteller becomes immersed in the worlds of people going about their ordinary daily lives, as unobtrusively as possible. His presence is accepted; images are not overtly posed nor awkward and each subject is entirely comfortable with the interaction. The creative journey continued through careful post production, printing and mounting, all reflecting the skills of a professional determined to present his vision as perfectly as possible. This was a powerful series that will live in our minds for a long time.”
In April 2016, Faces of Jerusalem was featured is issue 53 of the prestigious f11 Magazine with 38 pages covering the portfolio.
Check out D-Photo magazine article from September 2016: Within the walls of the Old City
Listen to Standing Room Only with Lynn Freeman (10’51”): RNZ Interview
Photos from the exhibition Opening Event