Tag Archives: Middle East

Finding Tel Aviv’s Heart.

Well, after the hassle of industrial action at Ben Gurion airport meant that I was delayed arriving in the UK by six hours, subsequently missing the last train home and thus flying out on my all-expenses-paid weekend trip to Barcelona, I have begun the process of recharging my batteries and adjusting to normal life.

The trip saw me first spend a week in Tel Aviv, then off to Jerusalem for a week. I also spent some time in Palestine. Whenever I could I was out with my camera. The weather was unyieldingly hot which, whilst many people’s ideal, was far from mine. It may be my Scottish blood but I much prefer the cold. I found myself struggling to concentrate on my creative side – a process difficult at the best of times.

In Tel Aviv I had the added restriction that I was there on a company funded training course and so, as eager as I was to be out and about, that had to take priority. As my old boss once said to a friend and colleague of mine: “Work life pays for home life”. Yes, with the course finishing at 6-6:30PM and sunset at approximately 8PM, photography in Tel Aviv was a fast and furious affair. Whilst nothing focusses the mind like the tick-tock of a clock, there was still the practicalities of getting from A to B to consider.

As a city, and this is in no way a criticism, Tel Aviv is pretty much the same as many other coastal Mediterranean cities, which makes photography both easy and complex. Easy in that the same type of shots that work in one city will work in another – cookie-cutter photographs; complex in that it is difficult to take a photograph that is different. As my photography has matured, I have long since stopped taking photographs that (1) are the standard tourist fare and (2) similar to photographs that someone else has taken, unless I believe I can do it better.

I’m fascinated by street art (or graffiti if you prefer) and Israel has a thriving street art scene. I’m going to write a separate piece on street art in Israel, but as I arrived in Tel Aviv, my primary objective was to shoot the street art. The other objectives were more vague – having just returned from Iceland and work consuming my evenings and weekends meant little time for researching the trip to Israel. But, in the end I became fascinated by two locations in Tel Aviv.

The first was the Azrieli Centre; a complex of three skyscrapers whose geometric simplicity is quite striking. More on this is a separate post.

The second was the beach. The last time I was on a beach (a few weeks ago) it was in Iceland at the top of the North Atlantic with ice cold water and a biting wind. This was an altogether different experience with a warm, yet cooling breeze and the much more temperature waters of the Mediterranean. My immediate feeling when I saw the beach was the it felt like everyone was there; the young, the old, the in between. joggers, volleyball players, surfers, people lounging in bars, people sitting on the golden sands, people still dressed in office clothes. Name a demographic and it was probably on the beach somewhere. To me the beach was the heart of Tel Aviv, right on the edge where land had run out.

As the beach is generally west facing, the sun set over the sea, making for the classic tourist shot of the sun hitting the horizon. As this kind of shot is a bit of a tourist cliché, it was not one that I was interested in and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I could take a very good one anyway. But a west-facing beach did mean one thing – a chance to do something creative with silhouettes. I like silhouette photography. A silhouette in a photograph can hide the fine detail that humans automatically look for upon seeing another human such as eyes, mouth, skin colour and symmetry. A silhouette becomes everyone. It becomes you.


Taking photographs of people can be a great way to break the ice. 1/750 sec, f/11 ISO 100

Taking photographs of people can be a great way to break the ice.
1/750 sec, f/11 ISO 100

So I found a suitable spot, set up camera and waited. The problem was, as mentioned, the beach is so popular and finding an uncluttered shot was an exercise in patience. In the end it took about an hour and 40 or shot shots to get one I liked, but when it happened I immediately knew that it represented how I saw Tel Aviv; young, healthy and enjoying life.

Of course, people become curious when  you set up a camera and, unlike a regular tourist, don’t move on after a couple of minutes. Over the course of the hour I got talking to a number of people, including a wonderful older guy and the couple above.

So, yes Tel Aviv in many ways is no different from other coastal Mediterranean cities I have been to, but the relationship that the inhabitants of Tel Aviv have with their beach does appear more intimate, perhaps even symbiotic. After all, what good is a beach without footprints in the sand?


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Time waits for no man…

Well, back from Iceland less than a week and by now I would be running through the first pick photographs. But I’ve spent five of seven nights working – or travelling for work – and I’m off to Israel in a week. So, as amazing as Iceland was, first pick has to wait as it is time to wrap up the trip plans for Israel.

First up is a pretty major change to the itinerary. Originally it was Tel Aviv (as the course that work has put me on is there), then straight out to Jerusalem for a couple of days before moving on to Ein Bokek at the Dead Sea. But, I have long had this nagging doubt about how wise the Jerusalem/Dead Sea time split was and so, when filling in the exit form that Isreali immigration requires I began to think about changing the plan. And so I have.

Essentially, after leaving Tel Aviv, I’m basing myself in Jerusalem, giving me five full days, plus bits on the arrival and departure days. The Dead Sea is easily reachable from Jerusalem being about an hour away, less if you hire a car. So I can still travel there pretty freely. But I feel the need to just spend a more leisurely time in the capital.

The main reason for this change is likely because of the leisurely pace of Iceland. It was just so useful to be able say “I can return tomorrow, or the next day” if the weather wasn’t giving me what I was after. Now I can. In Iceland, being able to return to sites meant that I got shots that otherwise would have been missed.

I have ideas on the shots that I want to take and I know my (photographic) limits. So the shots I want to achieve willl take time – and luck – to achieve. I’ve created the time, all I now need is the luck!


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