Shai Kremer's Fallen Empires

Shalom Life sits down with the famous photographer.

Published: May 3rd 2011
in Culture » Art

Kremers work.
Fallen Empires.

Internationally acclaimed contemporary photographer, Shai Kremer, has a very specific yet compelling oeuvre—he documents  landscapes marred by the militarization of Israeli society.


Born in Israel in 1974, Kremer’s transfixing photographs are an exposé of the indelible mark military presence has had on his homeland throughout antiquity.


Kremer’s latest solo exhibition, Fallen Empires, will be a featured exhibit in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. The Julie M. Gallery (15Mill Street Building 37, Suite 103) will present Fallen Empires. Toronto, ON) from May 5th to June 12th. The exhibit is accompanied by an eponymous monograp  published by Radius Books (2011). An opening night reception with Kremer will be held at the gallery on May 5th from 6 to 9pm.


Despite his hectic schedule, Kremer was gracious enough to sit down with Shalom Life to answer a few of our questions.


Sarah Bauder (SB): What drew you to photography as a medium?


Shai Kremer (SK): It happened very naturally as I have been playing with a camera since I was 14 years old, when my father bought me a camera for a photography evening class. I spent many long nights in the Kibbutz communal photo-lab, finding out the magic of black-and-white printing and leaving the dark room only to discover that it was morning already.


SB: How long have you been a photographer?


SK: My professional path started at the Camera Obscura Tel Aviv art school when I was 24 years old, 13 years ago. Then I did some commercial work - mostly still-life and architecture - before going back to graduate school in New York, at the renowned School of Visual Arts, where I obtained my Master in Fine Arts in Photography and Related Media. In the past 5 years I have been fortunate enough to be able to dedicate myself exclusively to my fine art career, with the help of the six galleries representing my work internationally (New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London and Tel Aviv). As of today, the work was shown or is included in the collections of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Arts, the SF MoMA, the Tate, the Israel Museum Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv Museum amongst others.


SB: Can you tell us a bit about the "Fallen Empires" series?


SK: The best will be to give you my statement, please see below: (excerpt from Fallen Empires monograph)


“What if we ”speak with our eyes” of Israel’s past? There is a visual history over and under the surface, spoken by the land and its stones and by all the civilizations that have arisen there. Israel is a sophisticated and manipulated palimpsest. Extensively covered by the media, debated by nations, claimed by religions, it is also a case study about the phenomena of empires. By visually highlighting Israel’s vast archaeological repertoire, its architecture and its ruins, I question how they are used today in the discourse of the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the future of the country. In the preceding pages, you have seen images containing, in one single frame, sediments of periods covering thousands of years and numerous governmental systems.


For example, around a small private aerodrome near the ancient city of Be’er Sheva, airplane hangars dating from the British Mandate period (1920–1948) are scattered. Over Zion Gate in the old city of Jerusalem, a surveillance camera scrutinizes our age, itself embedded in stones from the reign of Suleiman, and pockmarked by bullet holes from the 1948 war. Finally, in the ruined Palestinian village of Lifta, one can see the light of the construction site of a future rescue exit tunnel from an underground emergency nuclear bunker of the Israeli parliament. Such cases open a window through time on a landscape so familiar that we do not question it anymore.


Related articles: (Shai Kremer, photography, Fallen Empires, Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival)
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