As anyone in Israel can attest, time is a preoccupation in this nation and the surrounding region. There are few topics that do not hearken back to ancient eras, and while the future is on everyone’s minds, history seems remarkably flexible, open to any number of perfectly viable versions of truth.
Photographer Barry Frydlender has chosen to disregard the constraints of immediacy and the burden of history and instead engages time by practicing what might be called a “durational” form of photography. His images—composites made up of dozens, sometimes hundreds of individual visual facets—may evolve over a period of months in the making and the editing. The results are hyper-detailed vistas printed on a vast scale, often bringing us into the streets and social circumstances of Israel. “There’s a hidden history in every image,” says Frydlender.
It might be said that to photograph anything in Israel is to take a political position, so charged is the terrain with controversy. But Frydlender seems to maintain an observer’s detachment, even when his work is dealing with a topic as volatile as territory: his Israeli panoramas include Muslims and Jews, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, secular and religious, young and old. In this sense, his photographs testify to a land of many peoples and faiths and types, interconnected by the situation of this country.
Frydlender is meticulous in constructing his visual assemblages, which are stitched together with the help of his computer. He finds meaning in each of the many pieces of his “mosaics”—shaking up traditional ideas of centrality and focus. In the film Out in the World, he explains to a group of young photographers that each piece in his iconic 2003 photograph The Flood has its own center point: the viewer’s eye can land anywhere and find fulfillment.
These stills are from the film Out in the World, available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel.