“You, my friend, should be walking around with a camera all day”
Photos: Nachman Hellman
I always appreciated art. My wife Tzippy is a painter, and I found myself impacted by her work, able to appreciate what was being conveyed, but I never considered myself an artist.
I was visiting Eretz Yisroel in 2004 with a group of friends, and one day, they planned a trip to Yam Hamelech. I passed on it, reasoning that I hadn’t come to Eretz Yisroel to go swimming, and spent the day walking, just walking, through the alleys of the Old City.
I took a few pictures, and when I came home, I hung them up in my house: they seemed nice, and were a reminder of a beautiful place. But then people would come in and admire them, asking me where I’d bought them, and inside, I wondered if I could do this, if I should do this.
I finally summoned up the courage to go to a show, where I asked a very respected non-Jewish photographer to critique my work. He looked at it, and then at me. “Where’s your card?” he asked. “You, my friend, should be walking around with a camera all day.”
I started to take pictures then, and learned that what speaks to me most is authenticity: I don’t like to take posed pictures, or portraits. The beauty is in the randomness, the timing, the unpredictability: there is only One Artist, and sometimes, He lets us capture a moment.
The Kosel, to me, is the most personal spot on earth. I don’t go there to take pictures, generally, but sometimes, you sense a moment and your eyes are drawn to it. Children are pure, and pictures with them at the center reflect that purity.
Here, the father is clearly telling the child to kiss the tzitzis- the strings that connect us to Heaven, to life itself, the essence of the legacy that goes from generation to generation. And the backdrop? These are stones washed pure by tears, stones that have heard the whispered prayers of generations of parents, now celebrating the sweetness and purity of a Yiddishe child coming forward to take his place in the chain.
(Originally featured in A Gift Passed Along, Pesach 5780)
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