JOURNEY OF FREEDOM
A Conversation with Gabi Ben Avraham
For Gabi Ben-Avraham, street photography is his favourite way of looking at the world. His camera has become an integral part of him and he couldn't imagine himself without it. Constantly looking around him, Gabi searches for that ‘decisive’ moment and makes it eternal. The components of his composition 'speak' with each other in a special dialogue, either by color, shape, or light. Forgotten, transparent people in urban surroundings are being granted their moment of grace. The shadows, fragile outlines, reflections within daily lives that are not noticed in the busy and thick urban landscape and sometimes are even crushed by it – these are all precious to Gabi.
After two years of stagnation and a few lockdowns due to the Covid pandemic, Gabi went to the United States for a family visit in September. His series "Journey of Freedom" depicts that wonderful feeling of freedom, and Gabi expresses in his own way, the emotions of the people who went through Covid-19 in a surrealistic way.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?
I am an Israeli photographer (61), I was born and live in Tel Aviv and work in a software company. After flirting with an initial fascination with photography and film cameras in the 1980s, I went on to pursue a career as an IT manager and put my love for the still image aside. Fortunately, my interest never disappeared. While the passion lay dormant for decades, all it took was the gift of a camera from my wife to awaken my inclination towards photography again.
Tell us the full story behind your series "A Journey of Freedom". What is it about? What do you want the viewer to experience when they look at this series?
After two years of stagnation and a few lockdowns due to covid-19, I went to the USA on a family visit. I felt like a bird who finally flew out of its cage! The series depicts that wonderful feeling of freedom and expresses in a surrealistic manner the emotions of the people who went through covid -19, each of them in his own way.
What does street photography mean to you? Describe your style.
The Street is not a Studio. Sometimes I stand and wait for things to converge – a cyclist, a dancer, a child – moving along. Street and documentary photography are my favorite way of looking at the world. My camera has become an integral part of me and I cannot imagine myself without it. Everywhere I go I take it with me thinking ‘maybe today will be my lucky day and I will take the photo of my life’. Via the camera lens I am constantly looking around me, searching for that ‘decisive’ moment that will never return, unless I catch it. When pushing the button, I try to make some sense, restore order to the chaotic scheme of things in the composition, tell the story behind the scene and frame a surrealistic moment. The components 'speak' with each other in a special dialogue, either by color, shape, or light. Capturing the elusive, special moment after which things will never be the same and making it eternal – that is my goal.
What have been some of your favourite memories or moments in your photography journey? What have you personally gained from your experiences?
When I visited Cuba, I was invited to a home and after a moment found myself surrounded by pigs. Maybe the word 'surprising'; is better to express what I felt..At first I was alarmed but eventually the whole situation was amusing.
I like to observe people in religious ceremonies and festivals. I wait for the right surrealistic moment which will take things out of context and make them special.
When you are out shooting - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
Both. I choose the background and wait for things to emerge. This is a long process. At a single click, I try to fill the insignificance around me with significance and create a private and intimate hallucination in order to share it with the viewer. Even though the moment fades, it is burnt in the memory of the viewer. Like a fisherman who goes to his daily work without knowing what he will catch, I take my camera and dive into the streets without knowing what will happen five minutes later. It is an adventure. When I click I try to see the surreal and to sort things out of their everyday meaning and their usual context. I have my favorite places and I never come with the same photos. It is always different: the people, the light and shadows, the atmosphere.
What are some tips/advice you would give yourself if you started street photography all over again?
Try to build your own style. Exercise a lot with the camera. Find your own Master and be open to critics.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
I am inspired especially by Henri Cartier Bresson as well as Sebastião Salgado for their black and white images and by Alex Webb, Harry Gruyaert and Nikos Economopoulos for their fantastic work with surreal composition and great colors, and by many more talented photographers.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
In general I believe that the equipment is just a tool so it doesn't really matter. As for myself I am using Fuji XT-3 usually with 18 mm (27mm) prime lens and sometimes Fuji 23mm (35mm) prime lens, because the camera is small, light and does not draw attention. I enjoy shooting with wide lenses which enable me to build a full story in the frame.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I want to continue travelling in the world and look for new locations to shoot. Let's hope that covid 19 will end soon so we can move freely around the world and do some serious projects, for example India.
Are there any other special projects you are currently working on or thinking about that you would like to let everyone know about?
I want to have more exhibitions and work on a book which will depict my work.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
Have some drinks with my friends, watch TV, go through some photographic books and listen to music. In short I like to enjoy life.