One of my dearest friends just so happens to be an amazingly talented artist. Below is a quick interview that we put together. Lior Ben-Nissan lives in Tel-Aviv and makes incredibly beautiful images. You can see more of her work here: http://www.liorbenissan.com/
Where are you from, where do you live, where are you going?
I was born in Israel and grew up in a city close to Tel Aviv called Petah Tikva, in a quiet neighborhood for families. Growing up in that environment made me spend much of my time playing outdoors. I’ve got these vague memories of myself as a child, wandering around the streets, making-up all kinds of monsters and dragons, and a magic mountain up on the hill at the end of the small street where I lived. When I became a teenager I remember my friends and I wandering around Tel Aviv, which seemed like the coolest place on earth for us. In the last years Tel Aviv has also become my hometown, where I live, work and study, for an MA program about theory and criticism of the arts. However, I’m used to traveling a lot. For my soul, after high school graduation I lived for a period in New York City, where I photographed a lot. When I did my BFA in Bezalel Art Academy for almost 4 years I lived in Jerusalem. Then I lived in Pittsburgh for a while, where I was an exchange student at Carnegie Mellon University. In the last year I’ve spent some periods in Berlin, where my boyfriend lives.
I think that my wandering desire is deeply rooted in my culture, and I suspect that it may give some answers about my constant exploration of different kinds of landscapes; actual, fictional, or nostalgic.
What do you do? How long have you been doing it?
In the last few years I’ve become a photographer of some sort of isolated scenes, taken from the urban environment or from open landscapes. Most of my recent projects were about empty places, not only in the sense they’re lacking of people, but also in the sense of minimalist or anonymous quality that I was looking for. Places that are ‘forgotten’ from sight interest me. I try to give them a stage. To expose the ‘unseen’, the ‘forgotten’. I think it reflects the journey I’ve had with photography: When I was younger I wanted to become an actress, but as I grew older I’ve become more of a person that is in the back stage than in the front. Photography taught me how to see and how to listen.
I began to photograph around the age of 16, 17, relatively late in the process of adolescents. For many years I was somehow documenting my life. I fell in love with the feeling of being the viewer of a scene, and later on I also loved to look at the results and find out new things about the same scenes that I took, which I didn’t notice when I took it. It taught me to observe, it trained my eyes to see, to look, to check, by paying more attention to the details, to pause my sight, to meet an image in different time, different hour, different mood… the meeting was always somehow different after the moment that the photograph “happened”.
When I studied in Bezalel for the first two years I didn’t photograph at all. I tried my hand through painting, sketching and sculpture, and only in my 3rd year I came back to where I started from, to photography, only I was different than before. We connected again, our destiny met in a different point, while I was more mature and aware of what I’m doing. I like to speak about it in a romantic, deterministic, even metaphysic way, for it has deeply influenced my life.
I realized that even when photography is escapist or formalist it has a certain inner, innate, physical logic into it, which is a great comfort for me – it happened. Ever since it has become a way of life, to look, to see, to search with my eyes for new images, to try to look at things always from many different perspectives and from several points of view.
The project I’ve been working on this past summer, called Presence of Re Visit , seemingly deals with other questions rather than ‘lost landscapes’. However, it’s influenced from the same ideas: It also has a weird ambition to show something that is already forgotten, and by showing it, to revive it.Generally, I’ve found old photos in Berlin’s flea markets and gradually started to collect then. Later on I started to give names to the people in them, and particularly to one family that caught my attention. It was a German family from around the 30’s, which obsessively documented themselves and their house. I saw the boy grow up and turn into a Nazi soldier in the Second World War, their hunting habits, their friends… it was weird but I felt like I wanted to get to know them, to become familiar with them. So I hung their photos in my temporary flat, lived with them for 2 or 3 months, and after that came the documentation of the co-living. Presence of Re Visit is taking place geographically in Berlin, when in fact it takes place in between spaces, in a non-place, or in all-places, in my mind or in the viewer’s mind, maybe once, maybe forever.
Who/what are your influences?
Places; New places, old places, familiar places and foreign places, maps, languages,dreams, old photos of strangers, stories, funny objects, sleeping bears in the cold winter of Alaska, documentary films, my current job in the photography department of a big, daily newspaper, Facebook, Google maps, reality shows, and the human need of obsessively documenting everything- somehow everything connects. I still have this feeling of me as a child, exploring for monsters and dragons and magical things, that exist only for me. I like images that are unclear to me, that I cannot immediately get a simple answer about what is it exactly that I’m looking at. I like images of the moon and lost planets… it moves me.
What direction do you see your work moving in? Any new projects on the
Many, but none, or else: It keeps changing. If someone would offer me a really cool job abroad, or a full scholarship in a good MFA photography program in the US, I will for sure be happy to consider it…