by Patrick Ilagan . October 28th, 2014
One of our daily morning routines here at YouThePhotographer is going through image submissions. The submitted images are curated; we check if they fit our criteria and determine if they were submitted by the actual owner. It was through this we found out about Gabi, a street photographer from Tel Aviv. At first, Gabi’s email wasn’t any different from the other submissions we get for our Image of the Day section — unassuming and nothing special. But what struck me the most is the image attached to the email. It was a photo of what seems to be three generations of Jewish men nicely framed by the handle of a basket. Upon seeing the image I was completely struck and was lost in the visual narrative of Gabi’s photo. There were so many thoughts that ran through my head — it was like I was making these stories of how these three generations of Jewish men were interconnected.
I emailed Gabi after I snapped out from looking through his photograph and asked him flat out if I could interview him. He agreed — and like any good interviewer, I did research about him. I found out that Gabi Ben Avraham or Gabi works for a software company in Tel Aviv and has been married with three children. But unlike most photographers who honed their craft by years and years of shooting, Gabi had to stop practicing photography for 20 years and only returned after receiving a digital camera as a birthday gift from his wife. Despite the 2 decades of break, his photographs would look as if he was photographing all of his life. He was able to travel to various countries taking great photos with him and has done a couple of exhibitions since his return to photography.
We are extremely pleased and excited to be able to interview Gabi and talk about his work and experiences of shooting through the streets of Tel Aviv and abroad.
Patrick: Who/What influenced you to do photography?
Gabi: Photography for me is a passion. It is my way of looking at the world around me, whereby I can express my feelings and show the world my point of view.
P: What drew you to street photography?
G: Street photography is my favorite genre. The street is not a studio. Sometimes I stand and wait for things to converge – a cyclist, a dancer, a child – moving along. They are not aware that they are moving towards a certain object, but I am. Via the camera lens I am constantly looking around me, searching for that ‘decisive’ moment that will never return, unless I catch it. When pushing the button, I try to make some sense, restore order to the chaotic scheme of things in the composition. The components ‘speak’ with each other in a special dialogue, either by color, shape, or light. Capturing the elusive, special moment after which things will never be the same and making it eternal – that is my challenge. Forgotten, transparent people in urban surroundings are being granted their moment of grace. The shadows, fragile outlines, reflections within daily lives that are not noticed in the busy and thick urban landscape and sometimes are even crushed by it – these are precious to me.
P: Did you take formal photography classes were you self-taught?
G: No, I did not take any formal photography classes except for a basic course about digital photography. I have developed my own personal style during the years.
Capturing the elusive, special moment after which things will never be the same and making it eternal – that is my challenge.
P: You mentioned that you stopped using a camera for 20 years. What is it like going back into photography after all those years of not touching a camera?
G: On the one hand, I am happy that it happened but on the other hand, I feel I could have changed my vocation into photo journalist if I did not stop.
P: Looking at your photographs, it seems that Henri Cartier-Bresson was a big influence. Am I correct in that assumption?
G: Indeed. No doubt that his photos influenced me, especially in my B/W photos, from the surrealistic point of view and the special compositions. Nevertheless, I want my photos to have my signature.
P: Are there any other master photographers who you are taking inspiration from? Are there particular works of theirs you find memorable? What is it about their work that makes them stand out to you?
G: I was inspired by the works of Alex Webb, Felix Lupa and Steve McCurry because they are very unique, but there are many more masters you can learn from, such as Magnum and In-Public Collectives.
P: How do you start your day when you’re off to shoot? Do you have special preparations or rituals? Do you take practice shots on a random street first to warm up or anything like that?
G: Like a fisherman who goes to his daily work without knowing what he will catch, I take my camera and dive into the streets without knowing what will happen 5 minutes later. It is an adventure. I have my favorite places and I never return home with the same photos/stories. I do not have any warm up, sometimes the first or last shot of the day is the best one.
My advice is – Look at other photographers’ works on the Web and try to build your own style. Exercise a lot with the camera, find your own master and be open to critics.
P: What is the one most difficult thing you encountered while doing street photography?
G: When I shoot I try to be “a fly on the wall” so people will act naturally and will not pose for me. This is why I find it very difficult when people pay too much attention to me while shooting and change the scene as a result. Another risk is that people would not like it and I might get into trouble because of my shooting.
P: In your opinion, what separates an ordinary street photograph from the best street photograph?
G: Surrealistic situation, a decisive moment, a story, dialogue between elements in the frame, good light, shadows, colors and layers – all those must be built in order to make the best photograph.
P: Growing and living most of your life in Tel Aviv, what do you think is the one thing or characteristic that the streets of Tel Aviv has that other streets don’t?
G: TA is a modern city, full of life and energy 24/7, but it is like any other modern European city. Jerusalem, on the other hand, is not far and has the religious and ceremonial aspects in addition to the old city with its wonderful allies and markets. Therefore I prefer to shoot in Jerusalem.
Via the camera lens I am constantly looking around me, searching for that ‘decisive’ moment that will never return, unless I catch it.
P: You have traveled quite a lot — from the streets of Paris all the way to Cuba. Do you have a favorite city or street that seems to be calling you back again to shoot more?
G: In spite of my desire to see new places, Cuba attracts me to return there again and again. It is heaven for street photographers!
P: Are there any other country or specific streets that you haven’t been to yet but you’d love to visit and shoot in?
G: India!! I feel I have to go there. It is a world full of colors, people, and ceremonies – a totally different world from that I live in – that attracts me.
Like a fisherman who goes to his daily work without knowing what he will catch, I take my camera and dive into the streets without knowing what will happen 5 minutes later.
P: To you, what is the most memorable street photograph you have ever taken so far?And what is the story behind it?
G: When I visited Cuba I was invited to a home and after a moment found myself surrounded by pigs! This is how I learnt that amazing things happen inside houses, not only in the street.
P:Do you have any advice for fellow hobbyists and aspiring street photographers?
G: My advice is – Look at other photographers’ works on the web and try to build your own style. Exercise a lot with the camera, find your own master and be open to critics.
P: Tell us about your future plans. Are there exhibits or series on the horizon in the near future?
G: I participate in numerous exhibitions every year, my photos are published in some photograph magazines and I am working on a printed photography book.
Visit Gabi’s website if you want to see more amazing work or follow him on Facebook. You can check us out in Facebook and Pinterest for updates, new featured photographer, photography inspiration and anything about photography on your feeds.
Patrick Jude Ilagan is a graphic designer/photographer hailing from the vast jungles of urban Manila. Always on the look out for visually appealing stuff he scours the internet and the bustling city in search of inspiration. His tools for mass creation is a Canon 500D along with a wide array of lights and lenses plus a 4 year old (but still fighting) laptop. Check out his work on Tumblr.
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