p: ziv koren


writing with light when there is not much

ziv koren is an israel based award winning photo journalist and canon ambassador specialized in near-east conflict, documenting jewish life around the globe and the life of modern society’s underdogs. i had the opportunity to visit his recent exhibition in tel aviv called writing with light. he even was at the location himself, but i didn’t talk to him. 

the overall impression of the main theme of the set of pictures exhibited is ‘drama with light’. so the majority of photographs show dramatic scenes like for example refugees illegally crossing borders, israelian soldiers with frightened eyes in hamas’ tunnels, hungry children crying, christian enthusiasts during rituals, jewish ethiopians worshipping etc. staged in deep contrasts under unusual light conditions. it is beyond debate that all pictures are of high quality in composition and message but also very professional and appealing. they are pictures you see at the popular magazines.

to speak clearly: they are straight in the face in order to not to say incomplex. the main subject is always located in the center of the composition. and if this isn’t enough koren uses vignettes from time to time to guide the viewers eye quickly and without misunderstanding (not to say force). therefore viewing a single picture becomes a bit boring very soon. only a very few pictures break this rule of simplicity and provide a more complex arrangement of different details that tell the story not straigh-forward but through the engaged and slowly detecting eye of the viewer. naturally the high contrast also does its part to highlight and cover details and imho too often and too obvious. the dark and bright areas often do not preserve any detail, they are just burnt-out. all pictures are taken with wide-angle lenses that sometimes produce an unusual depth-of-field that might disturb the eye.

from my perspective and experience this impression is typical for digital photography i am not used to examine that intensely anymore. of course i see digital photography everyday on the web, in magazines, in ads on the street etc., but i normally don’t scrutinize them like i do in an exhibition. at ziv koren’s i once again understood the big differences to analog photography. the unsharp areas made by the depth-of-field appeared very messy, dark and bright parts don’t merge smootly but look blobby in an ugly way. details dissapear especially in black parts, nothing remains at all. film especially in bad light conditions is mostly much more forgiving and if it cannot preserve content details grain is always remaining which i find much nicer than just a black hole. even though as a canon ambassador ziv koren can work with the best lenses on the market he as a journalist on the street usually shoots with a fast shutter which causes lack of sharpness in any case. the ability of taking pictures with very less grain even on iso 6400 and higher with modern high-end digital cameras intensify this effect, because while analog photography chemical processing can use grain to sharpen pictures digital only can lose sharpness.

a great but acccidental thing that happened was that for a few minuted the lights turned off because of some technical problem with electricity. the guests very quickly helped themselves by switching on flashlight-apps on their mobile phones and started to discover the exhibition in a new, interesting and unintended way that also matched the exhibition’s title perfectly. besides all criticism that mostly comes from my analog photography skills and expectations i very much enjoyed the exhibition. most pictures show content i never in my life will be able to see or even take pictures of. they introduced me to worlds that i never will conquer and showed me things i never will come across. therefore it was definitely worth to see it and i would recommend to everybody to do the same. every viewer should be aware that this is not an art exhibition in the narrower sense but journalism that usually slaps in the face than veil the message. if you come across a ziv koren exhibition in israel or elsewehere, don’t miss it and see it for yourself.

the specs: camera - canon eos 3, film - kodak tri-x 400@3200, devloper - rodinal