Ken Taranto – The Settlements


Va invităm la o prezentare/expozitie organizată în cadrul Bucharest Photo Week de OMNIA PHOTOKen Taranto – The Settlements

Expoziția/prezentarea (in limba engleza) va avea loc la Education Point (Str. Mendeleev 7-15) pe 15.09.2017 începând cu ora 20:00

The Settlements (presentation and exhibition)

In 2012 I moved to Israel after thirty years in New York and I decided to undertake the self-assignment of documenting the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I had read about them frequently in the news but felt I actually knew very little about them. In my mind they were isolated hilltop clusters of tract housing, but I suspected that was a superficial and media driven idea. I wondered what it felt like to be there and whether they were all the same.

I began to make day trips from Tel Aviv to the different settlement regions, picking new areas every day. Very shortly I discovered that there was considerable variation in the age, size, density, affluence, religious character and natural setting of each settlement. I came to the realization that while they shared many common features, in fact, no two were the same in some significant sense. I learned that there is no single type of settler. Some are stereotypical back-to-the land new age religious Zionists and some are ultra orthodox. Some communities are secular and some have religious and secular residents. Some communities are prosperous and some are poor. Some are walled and isolated and some are essentially open to the surrounding Arab lands.

Co-existence and belonging became persistent and nagging themes on my sojourns. Over the course of the project, my own point of view evolved as I recognized that appearances can be deceiving and things are rarely as they seem. I present the photographs intentionally with minimal or no information because any accompanying narrative will influence the perception of the photographs. I wish to avoid leading the witness in the service of any political agenda. I want the viewer to wrestle with making sense of uncharged photographs of, perhaps, the most charged situation in the world.


Neve Tzedek and Tel Aviv Street Photographs (presentation)

I find the buildings in Tel Aviv very expressive in their intersection of abstract geometry and weathered materials. The salt air of the Mediterranean is hard on the stucco buildings, causing them to erode and accumulate layers of patching repairs. The mottling and patinas on the surface reflect the history of the building and bring character to it, while the underlying design remains visible and pure, in some sense.

Tel Aviv is a very rich city, architecturally speaking – not on a grand scale, but on a human scale. Buildings here have personality because they are designed and built individually, as opposed to by a step and repeat process. Walking the streets is like walking through a museum looking at individually designed pieces of art.

I live in the oldest part of Tel Aviv, Neve Tzedek. Twenty years ago it was a slum. Today it is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city and contains both old and new buildings of many styles. It is inhabited by both secular and observant residents and has a Yemeni heritage that still thrives. I feel at home here as an immigrant in a country and neighborhood of immigrants that tolerates and breeds non-conformity in every way imaginable. The minimal presence of ornament in the buildings is both a function of modernist design and economic limitations. Consequently, I see the shapes of and in the buildings appearing as expressive line drawings, with color, perspective and texture.

Photographing the buildings is my way of feeling more connected to the people by understanding and appreciating what is important to them. A person’s home is usually their most valuable possession. Buildings project their owners’ aspirations and reflect their values and pride. Josef Koudelka said that pictures without people in them often say more about the people of a particular place by showing what they have built and done with the place. I regard my architectural studies as a form of street portraiture.

Credit for this project must be given where it is due, to my dog. I always take my camera with me when I take Sammy out for a walk, and he is very patient whenever I want to stop to take a picture. While going out together may be routine, the visual experience is anything but. As Paul Strand remarked when he turned his camera on his garden at his home in France, after a lifetime of photographing in many different countries, the world can be found on one’s doorstep.

See my daily posts on Instagram @itscometothis.

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Ken Taranto was born in New York City in 1959 and lived in various places in the US as a child before arriving in California at age 10. At 15, he was introduced to photography by his neighbor and discovered his calling. After graduating from UC Berkeley he moved to Vancouver in 1980, where he studied with Jeff Wall and received an MFA in photography at Pratt Institute in 1985.

For the next twenty years he owned and operated a custom photo lab in Manhattan specializing in B&W film processing and printing for professional photographers, and agencies like Magnum. During the same period he was also engaged by the Lefrak Organization to document monthly, for 27 years, the progress of construction at their major waterfront development in Jersey City on the east bank of the Hudson River, facing lower Manhattan. In 1993 he opened Taranto Gallery in Manhattan, where over the course of 10 years, he mounted over 100 exhibitions and gave many artists their first exhibitions in New York.

Taranto learned photography as a tradition of not just taking pictures, but making them. That meant understanding exposure, film processing and printing techniques, as well as the unique qualities of the camera used. This training led to being in a position to provide technical support to photographers in a lab environment. Commercial photography did not interest Taranto as much commercial printing did. It was a way of working in photography that allowed sharing and actualizing another photographers’ vision.

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