May 15th, 2002
All you need to know this week in London
By Martin Coomer
#1MY NAME IS…ORI GERSHT
(Edited by Jessica Cargill Thompson with Alexia Loundras)
Thirty-five year old, London based, Israeli born photographer Ori Gersht came to prominence for his 1998 series ‘After War’, which focuses on the war-damaged buildings of Sarajevo. Last year he returned to Israel to create ‘Afterglow’, a series of photographs taken in the Judea Desert and a video shot from the Jewish quarter of Nazareth, looking towards the Arab village of Iksal.
You were born and raised in Israel, but you’ve lived in London for 14 years. Which do you consider home?
Both places are my home, but at the same time I have a certain distance from Israel that has developed through time. I still have a strong connection with Israel – my parents live there – but my perspective on Israeli culture has shifted.
Your work often involves a journey of some sort…
A lot of my work is to do with my roots and identity. I’m also drawn to the romantic notion of facing the unknown. Photography is about what’s in front of the camera, but I try to create distance between the physical nature of the journey and the resultant image.
Tell us about your trip to the Judea Desert.
I went twice, last year. The desert has been a place of refuge and retreat since biblical times. The land is also the dividing area between Israel and the West Bank – in disputefor thousands of years, but there’s this amazing serenity to the place.
Was that your intention for your video of Iksal?
I shot the video through the night. There is a fantastic peacefulness to it, ESPECIALLY IN THE MORNING. If I went down there, as an Israeli, there would be a chance I wouldn’t return. So I wanted to create a tension between how peaceful this place is, or can be, and what we know of the situation there.
Do you regard yourself as a political artist?
Our most basic engagement with the world is political, but my work is not really about taking a moral or political stand. I watch the news and it seems that information comes at us fast and clear, with a sense of aggression and certainty. In my work, I try to be gentle, to suggest possibilities.
Do you think there will ever be peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
It’s the biggest hope of my life.