After giving my talk at The Photography Show in March 2014, a great guy called Udi Tirosh, who had watched my talk, got in contact with me, not only is he the amazing inventor of the great Light Blaster but also the owner of a fantastic website DIY Photography. We started to chat over Facebook and not long after he told me about an amazing opportunity in Israel, where a great company called Kinetis, who are changing the way people think about Israel are sending over different groups from different countries to experience and share with the world what they really think of the country.
You see most people think about military, religion and camels and the conflicts happening between the Israeli’s and Palestine. But this is far from what the country is really like In fact it is a creative, innovative, up and coming place, with so much to offer. Israel is full of happy, inspiring people with a huge ‘can do’ attitude. I felt very lucky to be invited as part of a group of 6 photographers, including Simon Pollock, Jared Polin (Froknowsphoto), Benjamin Von Wong, Adam Lerner and Mike Kelley. Now you may think I am obliged to tell you all how amazing Israel is, but I promise to you that the experience I describe is genuine and I had the most amazing trip to this beautiful country.
On the 6th May, I got on a plane to go to Tel Aviv, I watched out of the plane window as the scenery changed from green to dusty brown. I was greeted at the airport with VIP service, had my luggage taken straight to my taxi and then began to gaze out of the window of the car, It was a great journey to Jerusalem where I would meet everyone as it was independence day and everyone was out on the streets having parties and celebrating, a great vibe and I had only been in the country an hour.
On arrival at the Dan Boutique hotel (which was rather wonderful and would recommend to anyone visiting Jerusalem) I was greeted by hugs from everyone and we soon went out for dinner where we all get to know each other. the next 6 days were jam packed with fantastic things, we meet some wonderfully inspiration people as we drove around Israel in a fantastic Mercedes van. On the first night in the hotel we hung out on the roof balcony with Bens new Broncolor lighting and mucked about taking some photos and got to know each other.
On our first day we went on a tour of Jerusalem, photographing the Holy Sepulchre was a dream and I didn’t quite expect how breathtaking it would be to walk in and see the biggest ‘god ray’ I had ever seen streaming from the ceiling. There’s something special about the atmosphere walking around the cobbled streets, in a daze, its special to take in other cultures and it was great for me to photograph some of the things I saw. We also made a quick trip to the wailing wall. We finished the day drinking wine at Tali Friedmans Atalier the Yehuda market to watch the sun set.
On day two we drove to the Dead Sea, the dead sea is the lowest place on earth and as we drove the heaven’s suddenly opened and lighting began. This is extremely rare in Israel (apparently it only happens a couple of times a year. That night huge thunderstorms and lighting kept me awake all night and with a 4am wake up call to meet for a shoot at the dead sea, I wasn’t sure if we could pull it off or not. At 4am when we all meet in the lobby, huge amounts of people had come and we all waited with rain pouring all around not knowing if the shoot would happen or not. Rain poured down the mountain side and military closed off roads as cliffs sides had come down in the night. At about 10am the sky finally cleared and we headed down to the stunning salt covered beach. it is the most surreal, but wonderful beach I have ever laid eyes on.
Our plans were ruined by the storm that night as we were meant to stay in a Shkedi campground, but with news of more storms, we had to get out of the dead sea while we can and so we headed over to Tel Aviv instead of facing a watery campsite. Our lovely tour leader Ad Kaplan (who was absolutely amazing throughout the whole trip) let all 6 of us sleep at her apartment in Tel Aviv and we had a great night eating Sushi and getting some much needed sleep. Me at 5am watching the storm.
The next morning we checked into the Diaghilev Hotel in Tel Aviv, and what amazing hotel!! Again I would recommend it to anyone staying in Tel Aviv, my room was like an apartment and with a great bar downstairs, it was the perfect place to hang out and a couple of nights we had get togethers in each others room for a few drinks, one night I was completely knackered and had gone to sleep and at midnight I get a knock at my door, it was Jared asking me to join them in Simons room, I said no way, unless you wear the tutu, which he did, so we went to Simons, wearing tutus and proceeded to dance around the room.
On our first day in Tel Aviv, we headed to the beach and watched the drummers circle on Dolphinarium Beach, Adam took photos of us jumping on the rocks and it was a great experience just chilling in the sun with the stunning backdrop of beach and Tel Aviv, we meet the lovely Noa Magger.
That evening we headed over to Kabalat Shabat for dinner at The Shanti House, which is a special house made for under privileged children. We shared The Shabbat meal with the children and it was a wonderful experience to see this kids who have had such terrible lives, now live in a place which is safe where they can smile and be helped to have a life they deserve. The next morning we had a tour of the architecture of Tel Aviv with photographer Ilan Nachum, what a lovely guy and he took us on a walking tour of all the cool architecture spots in Tel Aviv. The highlight for me of course was walking pas an abandoned building and Illan saying sure lets go inside. So we went in to see what was there and it was great! That day I also meet Or Kaplan, who I got on with like a house on fire, such a warm, happy sweet guy who I am very happy to have meet and spend time with.
After the tour, me and Or headed make to my hotel room, where we picked out some clothes and headed back to the abandoned building, we asked girls on the street if I could take their photo and was so happy when sweet Nadia agreed to let me do some shots with her. We had also stopped by the shop of designer Shir Gershovitz, who let us borrow this beautiful dress.
On Sunday we spent a very inspirational morning at the studio of Israel’s leading press photographer Ziv Koren, he told us about his work and showed us some of the amazing artwork and books he had collected over the years. We all left feeling very inspired by his incredible work, a wonderful morning. We then went to the Shpilman Institute to meet with Shalom Shilpman and tour the collection and then we meet Miki Kratzman in his studio, an altogether inspirational day.
In the evening we went to have drinks with everyone we had meet on the rooftop of the Wix headquarters It is said to be the most impressive headquarters, with an incredibly stunning view of the Mediterranean. While I was chilling out with a beer, my friend and fellow photographer Dave Kai Piper surprised me with his arrival, at first I could believe he was there and then moments later I was giving him a huge huge, not believing that he had come all the way from the UK to surpass me and join us for the remaining days of the trip. It was amazing to share these days with him, thanks for coming Dave. We finished the night with a special dinner at Messa Restaurant which we shared with the founder of Kinetis to chat about our experience. The next morning we went to the Google Campus to support Jared, who did a talk to his followers, great stuff Polin
On the last day we had the opportunity to visit a vibrant and cultural market in Jaffa and were very lucky to be given some incredible Mamiya Leaf equipment to use. We ventured round the market guided by Oded Wagenstein, part of Phototeva, a company who gives tours all around the world to budding photographers. We even learnt a few worlds so we could as the people in the market if we could take their photo. It wasn’t until I got home and pulled up the images in Capture One Pro that I realised the true quality of what I had created. I’ve never seen a file size so big and full of detail. Retouching the images was an absolute dream. Every hair & wrinkle had been captured in wonderful glory. The quality of medium format exceeded my expectations, I feel very lucky to have tried it out and hope one day I will get the opportunity to sue it myself.
For lunch we visited the studio of Itzik Canetti which was fun and he showed us his invention of a special laser focusing product.
On our final day in Israel me and Benjamin Von Wong went head to head for a shoot we had been planning over Facebook back in the Uk/ Canada. We had been chatting together and many others who would hall us in Israel. the plan was to do a shoot at an abandoned location and create some unique shots to maximise the time we had over there. We decided we would have a theme and amazing Guy Viner helped us to organise everything on the lead up to the shoot.We choose to do 3 shots – Fire, Feathers and Flour. Guy managed to find us people who could play with fire and even some snakes! At one stage I was shooting a model with snakes around my neck. I was so exceed how it was all coming together and when the day finally arrived, we all got up super early to drive to the North of Israel to the location. We got a call from Guy while we were on our way with the gutting news that the location had been sealed only in what must have been the last two weeks and it was now un accessible, we decided to head over and check anyway and luckily we found another location very close by on the road, the crumbling mosque and various ruins around were perfect for the shoot and so we set up.
My final memories of Israel was heading to the beach with everyone to get some final shots at a shipwreck as the sun set, we hung out, drinking beer and relaxing by the water.