Israel’s largest international photo festival debuts in Rahat

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Israel’s largest international photography festival, showcasing photos that express diversity and promote discourse, is on tour and debuting in the southern predominantly Bedouin town of Rahat this month.

The international festival is considered the “highlight of the year” for PHOTO IS: RAEL, a nonprofit dedicated to “a better society through the language of photography,” the chief curator told NoCamels by Acting PHOTO IS: RAEL, Yaara Raz Haklai. The organization was established in 2012 to achieve a vision that includes social action and awareness, creating dialogue between communities across Israel through art and social themes.

The festival will be part of a major event that includes an outdoor exhibit and two indoor exhibits on the patio and in the library at the Rahat Community Center. Photography, video and interdisciplinary works by 34 artists from 20 different countries will be on display until August 14.

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The annual event has long been an artistic institution in Israel that attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. It features works by prominent international photographers, as well as unique archival material, community outreach programs, lectures, master classes, workshops and gallery discussions.

“For us, photography is the language in which we speak, communicate and argue. But photography is also a party and once a year we celebrate the International Festival of Photography as a platform for all those who use the language of photography to express themselves and foster dialogue between peoples and communities. country, ”says Raz Haklai.

The 8th International Photography Festival is currently taking place at the Rahat Community Center. Photo by Eyal Landsman.

The festival was not always “on tour”, it became a traveling event out of necessity.

In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through Israel, the curators of PHOTO IS: RAEL behind the 8th International Photography Festival decided that the annual event, which was due to take place in Tel Aviv in November, would take a special format.

“While they understood the challenges of the unusual situation, they also saw it as an opportunity to think outside the box,” says Raz Haklai.

The curators created an exceptional outdoor exhibition, which was accompanied by a rich program of international conferences and artists on online platforms. The launch of the large-scale photographic and multimedia event, free to the public, was a resounding success. Over 80,000 visitors have arrived at Kikar HaMedina Square (State Square) and the accompanying online program has been viewed more than 20,000 times on various media channels.

international photography festival
Overview of the exhibitions of the 8th edition of the Rahat International Photography Festival. Photo by Eyal Landsman

PHOTO IS: RAEL then decided to take the outdoor exhibition a little further and present it in other cities across the country. It has made stops in outlying cities, where such events are rare, unlike Israel’s cultural capital, Tel Aviv.

In February, the photography festival visited the central Israeli city of Kfar Yona and in June it made an appearance at the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum in Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot in the north.

Transformative photography

More than 200 leading Israeli and international photographers were invited to exhibit their work at the annual festival after the call for nominations last year. A jury of experts covering a wide range of artistic genres reviewed the entries and selected 20 artists for the festival’s central exhibition in Tel Aviv under the direction of former chief curator Maya Anner. Fifty additional artists were invited to present their work in front of a professional audience during a special screening at the event.

Yaara Raz Haklai
Local photographer Rahat Sarah Shehadeh with festival curator Yaara Raz Haklai. Courtesy.

In Rahat, Raz Haklai worked on the list of exhibiting artists and selection for the artistic committee with PHOTO IS: RAEL CEO, Founder and Director Eyal Landsman.

Transformation, the theme of the festival, is entirely appropriate as Israel and the world change rapidly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO IS: RAEL aims to explore the theme “from multiple perspectives, interpretations and innovative representational methods” through topics such as birth and death, the human and natural worlds and the digital age.

“When we chose a theme for the festival almost a year ago, we couldn’t have imagined how relevant it would become in our lives. The open call for the festival was already live when countries around the world began to shut down one by one. In the midst of all the anxiety and uncertainty, we were excited and surprised to continue to receive fascinating and moving work on the subject of transformation, ”said Anner when announcing the winners of the Open Call 2020 last year.

Basma Abu Huti
A photograph by Bedouin photographer Basma Abu Huti. Courtesy of PHOTO IS: RAEL

But it was important for the team not to have a pandemic-focused festival, Anner wrote, and they were delighted to find that the submissions did not largely focus on the crisis. Instead, many photographers have offered diverse and thought-provoking interpretations of the concept of transformation. While some have explored the impact of political upheaval, others have focused on transforming privacy.

irmina walczak
“Oasis: In Our Quarantine Yard”, is a series by Polish photographer Irmina Walczak while in quarantine in the Spanish countryside during the COVID-19 pandemic. The photographer was a finalist for the 2020 Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography. Courtesy of PHOTO IS: RAEL.

In Rahat, exhibits illustrating local Bedouin identity and tradition were in the foreground. In “Life In Bedouin Localities in the Negev”, Bedouin photographers like Basma Abu Huti and Sarah Shehadeh explore questions of identity, otherness, status of women, home, tradition, respect and social convention. .

Shehadeh is a Bedouin artist who currently lives and works in Arad. Her exhibition, The Voice of Silence, curated by Drorit Chechik, focuses on the identity and cultural and spiritual life of Bedouin and Arab women in Israel as they straddle the boundaries between traditional culture and the desire for progress and development. ‘personal development. Her works respond to socio-cultural situations within Arab society from a female perspective and invite people to engage in discourse in a changing reality where women’s voices are often rejected or silenced.

A couple in Rahat.  Photo: Meital Dor via PHOTO IS: RAEL
Tasnim and Jafar. Photo: Meital Dor via PHOTO IS: RAEL

Another exhibit in Rahat, Hope, features a selection of works by local photographers and graduates of the PHOTO IS: VOICE Method Instructor Course offered by PHOTO IS: RAEL this year. Participants began training Rahat youth groups in photography as part of the organization’s social outreach efforts.

A total of 20 international photographers were shortlisted by PHOTO IS: RAEL as finalists for the Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography, a collaboration between the organization and the Zvi and Ofra Meitar family fund.

London photographer Rhiannon Adam was named the winner and received a grant of $ 20,000 for the publication of a professional photography book.

Rhiannon adam
A photograph of Meitar Prize winner Rhiannon Adam. Courtesy of PHOTO IS: RAEL

The works of the other finalists are presented to Rahat as part of a group exhibition.

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The festival includes free guided tours and a scavenger hunt for children. To find out more, visit the PHOTO IS: RAEL workshops and events page.


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