By: Shlomo Friedman  | 

Review: Gottesman Library Photography Gallery

The story begins, as do most articles in these pages, with the inimitable Connie Rose. In the wake of her master-mural, which impressively drew the ire of both art critics and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 141:1, much noise was heard and much suggested that the students of Yeshiva University design and paint the Nagel’s Bagels vault door. Other students, taking up the call, decided to express the artistic spirit of the student body in a different capacity. The Photography Club (of which I’m a member), with the generous support of the Office of Student Life and the continued guidance of Director of Yeshiva University Libraries, Paul Glassman, decided to put together a gallery of student photographs, with the goal of displaying a new series of images each academic year. The gallery resides on the second floor of Gottesman Library, to the right of the main desk.

Here, I offer the beginning of an interpretation of the gallery as a whole. By no means is it authoritative or even coherent. But that’s the beauty of art, and especially true in a photography gallery, which, by its very nature, allows for an incredible range of interpretation. As opposed to a book, which sequentially lays out the images in a specific order for a specific vision, a gallery displays all of its content at the same time. The gallery, therefore, demands contemplation, its themes, genres, and techniques investigated. As such, what is the gestalt, the cohesive vision, of the gallery as I see it?

The first thing that catches my eye when inspecting the gallery is the nicely contrasting and conflicting black and white frame colors, and the haphazard, disorderly arrangement of the pictures themselves. As such, the first impression of the gallery’s theme is that of chaos and incoherence. However, under further inspection, a thread of meaning begins to appear. Centrally located are three black and white pictures of old men in Israel, two of them taken by Shimon Lindenblatt, and one color image by David Freilich of an ultra-Orthodox child staring at a scroll. This juxtaposition of contrasting themes of old and young, color and its absence, religious and not, seemingly puts these two styles at odds, worlds apart. However, the gaze of the child seems to mirror the gaze of the wizened old men and we rediscover the same child-like innocence in each of the old men.

Yet, the comfort of man within the society, as perceived in the above images, is challenged by a series of shots that emphasizes the solitude of the human in the face of the environment. Tzvi Benoff’s North of Jerusalem and Navah Maynard’s Untitled both emphasize the loneliness of man, whether it’s the wilderness in the former or New York City itself in the latter. Maynard further complicates that loneliness with her second image, The Exchange. It shows a man buying food from a street vendor at night, cloaking the vendor behind a pane of frosted glass, demonstrating how even an exchange with a vendor on a street corner is fraught with the anxiety of loneliness. Aaron Gold’s Haredibirds shows one woman feeding birds on a beach by herself, but she is certainly not lonely. For her, the birds are a comfort, her way of deriving meaning amid the endless ocean and sky that stand so ominously in the background.

A bird is also featured prominently in Yossi Hoffman’s Soaring, where an eagle soars above distant hills. This, along with the other natural landscape images, emphasizes the sublime vistas, and, if just for a second, transports us to those same scenes of transcendence. Matan Horenstein’s Crater Lake Oregon, Tzvi Levitin’s Taking Flight, and Aryeh Korman’s Robin all succeed in highlighting the exquisiteness of our planet. The only work by hand, Ari Kaye’s Drops on a Window, mimics the presence of raindrops on a window. Makena Owen’s Setting Sail 3 foregrounds the form of a majestic ship as it sails through the sunset.

The form as it bends into the abstract performs as the gallery’s last experiment. Gabby Glick shatters our sense of comfort in Cracked Wheel, as she artfully emphasizes the upward movement of the spokes of a wheel as they reach for the heavens. This same longing for the beyond is captured in a stunning shot by Eliyahu Ebrani of Israel’s famous light-rail bridge. Yet, this movement for the beyond is tempered when finally achieved in David Reich’s Mechanical Sunset, where the wing of an aircraft, having reached the ideal of above-ness, now horizontally blends into the early dusk sky.

However, the well-defined forms and man-made structures of above are questioned in the gallery’s more abstract pieces. A minimalistic and thoughtful meditation on the nature of light and self is conveyed through Aaron Ishida’s playing with light and shutter speed in his two images. There, multiple beams of light and self are imprinted on each respective image, suggesting a multitude of truths in interpretation and being. The most controversial piece, by Shai Berman, contemplates the meaning of humanity and lunch in his sparse though well-lit portrayal of a tomato soup from above. As we peer into its murky, red abyss, we are reminded of the dangers of homogenization and sameness. Indeed, both experimental pieces of the gallery emphasize the need for diversity amid a world of broken grand narratives.

The gallery as a whole features a rich, diverse stream of ideas and techniques. However, these themes emerge only when contemplated thoughtfully. So take a break from (not) studying in the library, and visit the gallery. Once there, pause, and look closely at each image. Ask yourself what this image is trying to achieve and how it does it. But above all, appreciate their solid existence, their shocking realness, and reflect on how images reveal their authenticity only after transformed from pixel to ink and paper.