Micha Bar-Am, one of the pillars of photography in Israel, has travelled and photographed southern Israel since the 1950s. Over the years he has recorded diverse aspects of life in this region: the stunning natural phenomena of the desert, the new towns in the Negev and the immigrant pioneers who settled there, the farmers of the kibbutzim and moshavim, the Bedouins and their settlement, army manoeuvres, leaders and ordinary citizens, children and the elderly, markets and houses, festivals and daily routine.
Bar-Am photographed this variety of themes under changing lighting conditions – from the pale dawn light to electric light at night-time – and from an assortment of perspectives: sometimes an aerial view of the desert sands, and on other occasions a low and oblique perspective on contemporary architecture. His compositions attest to his attraction to geometric order and dynamic balance, and attention to detail. These are just some of the defining traits of Bar-Am’s photographic language, reflected in the hundreds of thousands of photographs that he has taken across Israel and abroad, many of which have become iconic images. About 80 of his works that were photographed in southern Israel have been selected for this exhibition at the Negev Museum of Art.
Micha Bar-Am, who was born in Berlin in 1930, was always present – in both his personal and professional life – at key intersections in the history of the country. In 1936 he immigrated to pre-state Israel with his family, and fought in Palmach units during the 1948 War of Independence. He later founded and was a member of a kibbutz. He was a photographer for many newspapers, from Bamahaneh and Davar Children’s Supplement to the New York Times. He documented the Eichmann Trial, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the First Lebanon War. Since 1968 Bar-Am has been an associate-member of Magnum Photos, the major international photographers collective, and his work is highly regarded world-wide. He founded the photography department at Tel Aviv Museum of Art and headed it from 1977 to 1992; his works have been presented at numerous exhibitions, and he has published books and won prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize in 2000.
The majority of the photographs displayed in the exhibition were created over the twenty-five years between 1954 and 1979, a period of intense development and construction in the Negev. Almost all the sites have changed beyond recognition, and the exhibition invites viewers to a riveting encounter with moments and figures from the past – a history of everyday life. Quite a few of those ‘moments’ have become masterpieces, images that are preserved beyond the time and place where the camera captured them. This is where the power of photographic art is expressed – by conserving even the most banal moment and transforming it into an impressive iconic image that remains etched in the memory and provoking thought not only about the nature of the place but also as regards the validity of the evidence, and the nature of photography.
Curator: Dr. Dalia Manor
Assistant Curator: Nirit Dahan
Southward: Micha Bar-Am, photographs
Editor: Dr. Dalia Manor
Design and production: Yossi Jibri
Be'er Sheva Municipality
Ministry of Culture and Sport