PICTORIAL STORY

May 6, 2022

HOUSE OF MIRRORS

Photography by Sharon Eilon
With model Ohad Huri
Words by Gal Eilon

In the project HOUSE OF MIRRORS, photographer Sharon Eilon aims to investigate the human experience in her home country of Israel. A mindful observation through the main character's eyes reflects the Israeli society as it is perceived from external and internal points of view simultaneously. Through a lens of playful self-parody, Sharon has tried to showcase different facets of this society, shining a spotlight on its charming characteristics – the warmth, openness, eccentricity, and the tribal spirit it encompasses.

"My intention was to hold up a mirror to my home, the country I live in. I wanted to take a look at my familiar environment from a different point of view, and thus, this project was born."

In this project, Sharon chose to use the visual language of street photography, which is the genre of photography she loves most and in which she is well-versed. Using this visual language provided Sharon with comfort and familiarity, a sort of safety net as she embarked on her journey catching this outside perspective, "I came in with a familiar skillset to catch an unfamiliar perspective on my own home," she explains. This series includes both candid photographs and ones that were taken with the cooperation of strangers Sharon and her collaborative partner met on the streets just a few minutes earlier. "Of course, I can't talk about this project without mentioning the wonderful Ohad Huri, the model I collaborated with to bring this vision to life."

Sharon had a great connection with Ohad, both sharing a similar view on this project, which made it easy to work with each other. "What surprised us both was how easy it was to work in public," she discusses. "We both expected a hesitance or even a hostile approach from other people in the frame, but most times that wasn’t the case. Wondrously enough, curious bystanders had asked us what we were doing, asked to get their pictures taken with Ohad, and joined in on the project, so we got a great deal of cooperation."

With expectation, there were some raised eyebrows, but most people were simply curious and happy to help, and a few times people even got into Sharon's frame out of their own volition. This general readiness to help, to join in, represents exactly what Sharon was hoping to convey in the photos – the spirit of the Israeli people. "People aren't shy to offer a helping hand or ask what we're doing, and even though we're strangers, somehow, it's always enveloped in a sense of warmness and familiarity. We have no qualms about reaching out, about connecting, and for me, this is a special trait of our society, one that should be celebrated."

To examine this, Sharon placed Ohad in a variety of typical locations that represent life in Israel for her, this warm country home to warm people. She took photos at the sunny beach, the marketplace, at the park, running into the familiar sight of people making use of the good weather and barbequing. These locations were an entryway to meeting the Israeli people in them. Sharon remembers, "We ran into a father who coaxed his young daughter to take a picture with Ohad, into a folk dancing class; we met a man who came to the same beach every day for twenty years and fed the egrets, so now they recognize him and come to sit on his arm. We came across a couple in love at the beach, a family picnicking in the park that invited us to join them, young men working out, a religious man helping men lay phylacteries. We encountered the loud joyful sellers in the market, as well as one butcher who, even though doesn't usually agree to have his photo taken, agreed to participate and even added his own humoristic take on the photo."

All of these people, places, and experiences reflect, for Sharon, integral parts of Israel and the society that inhabits it and gives it life. And in the middle of that, Sharon inserts the character of an outsider, helping the viewer along in seeing these familiar sights through a different lens, and providing silent commentary on the special quirks of the Israel society.

A selection of images from this project were presented in a gallery in Israel, and to Sharon's surprise, a few of her colleagues and the viewers had asked her if she had used photoshop to insert Ohad in the photos. Of course Sharon had not, which is what she told them, explaining, "I don't even know how to use photoshop. It made me think for a while until one of my colleagues explained it in a way I liked; if people think Ohad isn't really a part of these photos, to the point where the jarring contrast made them think the photos were manipulated, that means I had done things right. And this achieved the perspective I was aiming for."

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