Friday, October 8, 2010

"The quest for the man on the white donkey"

"As per the Orthodox Jewish tradition the Messiah (the Prophet) will arrive riding on a white donkey.

A few years ago, as I was photographing near the Dead Sea a Palestinian man rode past me on his white donkey and I took a picture of him.

It was after having developed this plate that I’ve realized that I had encountered my “Messiah”; it was this chance encounter which brought me to initiate the body of work that carries the name: “The quest for the man on the white donkey”.

The American tradition of the great photographic journeys served as a blueprint for the initial phase of my “quest”: with the definitive difference that in such a small country as Israel the size of the territory in which my hunt was pursued necessarily shaped my proceedings. A condensed experience: what in any other country should have been a photographic journey which spanned over months of continuous traveling was inevitably reduced because no matter what destination I chose it always brought me back home by midnight at the latest.


As my messenger started to reveal the “message”, the search for a deeper understanding of my Country and what defines me as an Israeli became an urge to look for the in-between places, the unexpected situations; suddenly a detail requested my attention as I stood for hours waiting for a meaning to reveal itself: or pushed me away, puzzled. But in the end I had to hold on to it. I could not let go until that detail was made mine, until the elusive and enigmatic found their place in my understanding of what I deemed as authentic, real encounter.

“The quest” is my attempt to relay a personal take on the Israeli reality with a broader sense of belonging to the global human collectivity.


Part of my identity as Israeli is to question everything, not to leave anything for granted: to show the tensions that constantly exist, to convey the truth behind the construction of the reality here and now.

Religious, social aspects filter into everyday life and their meanings are exposed as the journey moves on. Jewish missionaries, lost souls and individuals living on the fringe of society: all blend into this landscape of humanity."

- Yaakov Israel, 2009

Topography and melancholy blends amazingly in Yaakov Israel's images, not only in this work but in all his photography. The eye can embrace wide surfaces and yet preserve the details, all the faint traces of a story so loud and yet so fragile we might crash it with a single glance. It takes time to explore those images, to let them arise from underneath all the thoughts, all the ideas we might think we have about their own subject.
If there is a place where photography makes us feel like we all have been to, then Israel is probaly the first on the list: to see these images we need to try to forget what we know, and start all over again.

All images take from The quest for the man on the white donkey © Yaakov Israel

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