February 8, 2007
Photography: Life during wartime
"It's terrible being far away," said Israeli-born photographer Elinor Milchan, about watching the news of last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war on CNN or Fox. "They only show you brief moments of terror. They don't show you in-between moments that give you strength."
Milchan's exhibit, "Raw: A Diary of Unknown Faces," which will run through April 13 at The Jewish Federation headquarters, kicks off the 10th anniversary of the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership, a cultural and educational exchange launched by The Federation.
The 34-year-old Milchan was at her home in New York City when Israel's war with Hezbollah began. She and her friend, Keren Ann Zeidel, a musician and songwriter, decided that they needed to be in the Jewish state to support the troops and civilians. They enlisted David Broza, another Israeli singer, to join them in entertaining Israelis at the shelters and army bases in northern Israel.
The photos of the shelters at Kibbutz Sassa and Kibbutz Yiron are all circumscribed in darkness because there was almost no light in the underground facilities. A few photos are so dark that it's hard to see the subjects.
In one, Milchan photographed Broza, whose face and scalp, shown in profile, take on a much darker hue in the foreground, while behind him there is a dart board lit up gaudily like a Vegas casino.
Where the civilians are shown in cramped surroundings, with almost uniformly severe expressions on their faces, the soldiers look jubilant, so delighted are they to hear music and receive spiritual solace.
In one picture taken at Kiryat Shemona, near the Lebanon border, Zeidel, known in Israel simply as Keren Ann, sits on a tank with a number of soldiers, all hugging each other and singing along, as she strums an acoustic guitar. It takes a moment to realize that the elongated object hanging down in front of one of the soldiers is a machine gun, not a woodwind instrument. Next to Keren Ann on the tank, the singing soldiers present a tableau right out of Picasso's paintings on musicians. Although the photograph is not remotely cubist, the soldiers at that moment could just as easily fit in as members of Keren Ann's band.
Some did not survive, but they all experienced a rare moment of joy in the midst of the tragic war.
As Milchan said, "We were there to give some good energy, to do something positive."
"Raw: A Diary of Unknown Faces" runs through April 13 at The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 761-8000.