photo workshops in Jerusalem

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on the roofs of the Old City

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on the roofs of the Old City

I teach photographic workshops in the streets of Jerusalem Old City

These workshops allow photographers of all levels to review and improve their photographic practice while discovering the mesmerizing beauty of the three times Holy City and the Levant.

Jerusalem Old City is like an exuberant movie set with its many layers of history and its feverish street activity, offering bottomless and stunning street photography opportunities.

As a photographer I have been conducting, for years, my own documentary and artistic projects on different aspects of my city, Jerusalem. 
Teaching photographic workshops is a golden opportunity to share my passion and my experience, both as a photographer and as a guide. 

These inspiring workshops will boost your creativity and photographic practice while uncovering a Jerusalem which you might not have suspected!

You will find galleries illustrating my own work as a photographer here and here

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Muslim quarter

Jewish quarter

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the workshops revolve around two main themes

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Jewish quarter

  • simple ways to improve our photography and ways to develop our own photographic style.

  • the specific logistic issues linked with any photographic project in Jerusalem Old City. We explore the practical solutions and tips on the ground.

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Via Dolorosa

these workshops do not require any specific equipment (a smartphone can indeed suffice as a camera). the workshops are not concerned with the technical side or the use of gear.

 

We shall focus on simple ways to improve our photography.

We shall reflect on our approach to photography and the huge creative and artistic potential which photography offers as a medium.

what the Old City of jerusalem has to offer

some examples of what your lens will capture during these workshops

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from recent workshops in Jerusalem Old city

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in the streets of Jerusalem Old city

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David street

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church of the Holy Sepulcher

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church of the Holy Sepulcher

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church of the Holy Sepulcher

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Xmas decorations in the christian quarter

Here is an essay in which I share my experience and some reflections on my work as a photographer in the streets of Jerusalem Old City.

Jerusalem at lens length

By Eitan Simanor

To photograph in Jerusalem, especially in the Old City should not be improvised. It is a challenge which requires preparation, reflection and even some questioning, maybe…

Jerusalemite photographer Eitan Simanor describes the place, conveys his precious experience and gives us some tips to avoid sinking into the well-worn.

 

OUR HEARTS easily fill up with empathy for the writer who suffers from fear of the blank page, probably because we have all experienced similar pathology in some way. But what about the photographer struggling with a photographic project in the Old City of Jerusalem?

 

He or she is confronted with the exact opposite but not less traumatic phenomenon: The Old City resembles an exuberant theater set, the countless actors are all hyperactive and the set is textured like an ancient parchment covered with Holy Scriptures over which endless militant graffiti has been scribbled.

 

The photographer is like a radar operator forced to decipher a weak signal hidden among white noises of high intensity. Working around his subject, he is constantly trying to keep his frame reasonably clean from the overwhelming data in the form of hectic activity and chronic disorder. To achieve a “clean shot” in the streets of the Old City is about as unlikely as to come across the messiah.

 

I can testify to the above as a privileged witness. Indeed, most of my photographic projects in Jerusalem are based on the observation of the feverish daily activity in the streets of the Old City, in an attempt to decipher the fascinating groundswell that sweeps this tiny microcosm. To capture the essence of Jerusalem, such is my self-assigned mission for years. I have developed techniques, I have learned by heart the map of the Old City, I know the light at each street corner in every season (almost). I relentlessly cover events, even the most insignificant and I regularly hang out at locations inside the Old City Walls. According to the plethora of photographic manuals around, I should long ago have transcended the Old City of Jerusalem. Well, I have not.

 

Two quotes by legendary American photographer Dorothea Lange have helped me make progress: “Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion.... The subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.” As I bumped into this quote I first concluded that I had done the right thing but then realized that I never actually got close to exhaustion. Since then I have become less empathic towards my fatigues and I have multiplied my efforts. I like to think that it has paid off, maybe. As for true love or true hate towards the Old City, I still have to make up my mind… A quote by yet another remarkable American photographer, Susan Meiselas, saved me from the dilemma: “The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.”

 

A second quote by Dorothea Lange hit me like a revelation. I was at first vastly destabilized, until I turned it into my Gospel: “To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.”

 

As a photographer in Jerusalem, you are almost never alone when working on a subject or an event, as banal as it may be. It is not rare to be surrounded by a crowd of fame-thirsty photographers like yourself. The tendency is to stick with the flock and to focus on the more dramatic, iconic, mediatic scenes. The result often comes as a series of pale and preconceived clichés. But if you purposely take some distance from the bustle, change perspective, search for the seemingly inconspicuous characters, turn your back to the tangible, you are then stepping into a brand new and fascinating Jerusalem.

 

As a result, you are likely to find yourself digging even deeper through white noise, but with a little bit of faith and enough obstinacy you are now ready to capture some true gems, hopefully. Don’t be surprised of course if, as the day draws to an end, just before the Old City’s narrow alleys turn pitch black while the crowds have deserted them, as your body refuses to respond after endless hours of legwork and your feet are desperately pleading for mercy, you are left with no more than a handful of photographs out of which only a couple might single out. Time to consider this next delightful quote by British author W. Somerset Maugham: “Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.”

 

THE PHOTOGRAPHER is to expect yet more frustration in his ambitious campaign to conquer the Old City of Jerusalem. Most visuals describing the city and its human fabric inevitably encompass an iconic dimension, a dialogue between the subconscious and some of the more universal cultural landmarks. It undoubtedly has to do with the fact that Jerusalem enjoys a Holy Destiny… More prosaically it is linked to the fact that within the nations whose cultures are impregnated with monotheistic affinities, all individuals share a sizable collection of concepts and images acquired from their close surrounding, from their exposure to education, to art, culture or entertainment and from their own relationship with faith.

 

What is common to these concepts and images is that they have emanated from religious dogmas or from stories out of holy books. This quote by French author Albert Camus might make some of us smile but it certainly does not leave any of us indifferent: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is.”

 

Jerusalem plays a central role as a Holy City in all three monotheistic narratives. The Bible, the Gospels and the Koran have inspired humanity for as long as they are amongst us. Hollywood has produced blockbusters, based on stories and characters intimately linked with the Jerusalem of the Holy Scriptures. The far-reaching influence of religious symbols, heroes and stories from the scriptures on our subconscious is difficult to quantify. One extreme if controversial example is the Jerusalem Syndrome, a mental condition which is rooted in religiously-themed obsessive ideas and which is mainly triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination but has affected Jews, Christians, and Muslims of many different backgrounds.”

 

 A photographer is also influenced by these religiously-themed messages. What does he or she see, what do they feel when they set out to work on a photographic project in the Old City of Jerusalem and how does all this transpire into their work? The photographer is actually holding a double-edged sword. On the one hand, his creative moves and decisions are to some extent influenced by his Judeo-Christian background. On the other hand, while photographing in Jerusalem, you are confronted with the “real thing” at lens’ length, you are in fact immersing yourself into a reality saturated with Judeo-Christian connotations. Add to this the fact that the targeted public of viewers are most likely to be themselves influenced by Judeo-Christian culture!

 

A young and talented Israeli photographer, Adi Nes, made a clear choice early in his career. He embraces all the elements of his identity as part of his art. “My staged photographs are oversized, they are inspired by art history and religious scenes combined with my own experiences from my life as a gay youth.” One of his well-known images recreates Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” but replaces the central figures with Israeli soldiers. The photograph appeared on the front page of The New York Times in 2008. In his photography, Adi Nes does not make use of the reality at street level in today’s Jerusalem. As an artist he takes the freedom to interpret and transpose religiously-themed icons into a studio environment.

 

As for the photographer working on a project in the Old City, the narrow alleys are his studio and real life crowds are his models. These being the streets of Jerusalem, his photographs will inevitably include elements of religiously-themed icons. But the grating reality, the harsh Middle Eastern light and the inherent disorder are no match for the glitter of Hollywood productions or the splendor of historical paintings of biblical scenes by the greatest known masters of art. How does one tackle such a challenge? My advice, as we have learned from Dorothea Lange, is to ignore your preconceptions and to keep working to exhaustion. I would also declaim this meaningful quote by yet another great American photographer, Ansel Adams, while striding the alleys of the Old City: “Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real.” ■

 

© Eitan Simanor