Where are you from and how did you get into street photography?
I am from Binyamina Israel, a small town 50 km north of Tel-Aviv, near the Mediterranean Sea. I have been into photography for a long time, I just never found the time to actually do it. On a trip to the Far East, 25 years ago, I borrowed my grandfather’s old film Olympus, and it was great. I have learned photography on the go. I understood exposure and remember playing with long exposure 🙂. Many of my images from Nepal were actually street photography images, but I didn’t recognize it then. A few years ago I took a course of street and documentary photography with a famous Israeli photographer – Felix Lupa, and started doing photography more seriously.
You have taken so many images that make me stop and say, “What in the world is happening here!?” For example, this one:
I’m looking at this and saying, “what’s that kid doing and why are you in a fire pit?” and for the life of me, I can’t come to any reasonable conclusion. What’s the key to getting surprising images like this one do you think?
That’s the beauty of it, going to strange places and meeting different kinds of people. And Israel is full of those. On one side we have Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem on the other.
The Orthodox Jews way of thinking about life is different, they think the body is just temporary and what truly counts is the spirit. Only learning the Torah (Bible) and following its principles is of any meaning, and all other material stuff is not important. And this way of thinking causes a lot of differences that turn into these kind of pictures.
I also notice a contrast in your images – I see a world of orthodox Jews and traditions and then suddenly, a world of parties and revelry. I’m curious, what is this contrast about?
We have a colourful country. So many different groups of people living on a small piece of land. We have about 5 major groups of people living here, including Jews, Arabs, Orthodox Jews, Russian immigrants. That’s a good thing for photographers.
Jerusalem is very much different from Tel-Aviv. Each city has its special character. On special occasions, such as holidays, parades, demonstrations etc… there is a chance to catch interesting moments on the streets. It could be a ceremony called “Kaparot” or gay parade with 250k people in sunny Tel-Aviv. If only I could go to the West Bank Palastenian city to take pictures there, that would be nice.
Where is your favorite place to take photographs and why?
Jerusalem is my favorite. The black coats, narrow streets and glimpses of sunlight make it beautiful to shoot. Small children play on the streets, like it used to be before TV. And interesting conversations with people are nice.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in street photography and how have you overcome them?
For my first project I chose to photograph skateboarding. So, I went to skate parks and photographed interesting scenarios and people. The people were nice and cooperative and I gave them nice personal photos in return. That project really demanded me to get out of my “comfort zone” in places I am not used to hanging out at. That was my biggest challenge. My advice to new street photographers is to shoot where you can blend easily, such as public events or parades and practice street photography. Pick a photography project and try to dedicate yourself to it. Some pictures are hidden, and it takes a few occasions to recognize them.
“Pick a photography project and try to dedicate yourself to it. Some pictures are hidden, and it takes a few occasions to recognize them.”
My current challenge is to find new and interesting subjects to photograph. After some years, my subjects become boring – the same streets again and again. There is a need to search for new places. And I found a special group of surfers at the small Arab village of Jisr az-Zarqa.
What is your most memorable moment or photo from street photography?
Definitely going to a Jerusalem neighbourhood called Mea-Shearim (“100 gates”) during the Purim holiday. Purim is characterized by people drinking wine, until they are not able to differentiate between their left and right. That makes a lot of opportunities for unique scenes, and memorable moments in general (not just photography related ones). I remember dancing with the guys, because being happy is a “mitzva” on Purim.
What has street photography taught you?
Street photography for me is a way to relax from work and the tension related to it. Wandering the streets is like a trip. When I walk the street with no hurry it is different, I enjoy exploring and small talk with people that I don’t know. When you examine the street slowly, you see other frequencies that you miss when you are in a hurry.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about Ori and see more of his work, be sure to visit his Flickr photostream and his Instagram feed. This photographer was selected from our Flickr group (Street Photography Magazine), where we regularly choose photographers’ work to be published in our magazine.