Yaakov Israel: The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey at Impressions Gallery

By Lucette Davies | 04 January 2013
A photo of a woman in a headdress standing on grassland next to a tree under sunshine
Yaakov Israel, Eman, South Western Negev (2011)© Yaakov Israel

Exhibition Preview: The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey, Impressions Gallery, Bradford, January 18 – April 13 2013

If a great photograph can raise powerful emotions, it is hard to imagine that Yaakov Israel’s photographs could ever be seen as anything but emotive. The Jerusalem-born photographer lives and works in Israel – a place which, of course, has caused plenty of emotive concerns across the world since being established in 1948.

Television coverage of conflict will frequently leave viewers without a picture of life in the country, only seeing rocket attacks and shelled buildings, eschewing the lives of ordinary civilians not caught up in fighting.

A photo of a young Middle Eastern man standing on concrete ground in shorts
Gadi, Ein Fuar (2010)© Yaakov Israel
Israel shows us his view of the nation that shares his name, taking us on a geographical and metaphorical journey across this complex land.

His images offer something beyond that that the mainstream media offer.  Their landscapes are filled with uncertainty, but show a glimpse of the potential that Israel holds.  It seems extraordinary how much the collection inspires a feeling of peace.

Many reflect facets of Israel’s political and social state. The exhibition’s title was inspired by a chance encounter with a Palestinian man who rode past while he was photographing the Dead Sea.  

In the Orthodox Jewish tradition, the Messiah (Prophet) will arrive riding on a white donkey.  Following his encounter with the Palestinian man, Israel said the development of the photo plate made him “realise I had encountered my ‘Messiah.’”

The images include that of an abandoned, overgrown swimming pool in the Northern Judean Desert – a powerful picture of long-standing neglect.  An image of the armed presence at the Dead Sea Hilton depicts the tensions within the country.  

A glimpse of everyday life is shown in the gathering of herbs in Haifa and the solitude of bathing alone in the Sea of Galilee. The images bring conflicting emotions of conflict and peace; of something both ugly and beautiful. But most leave the viewer tinged with sadness.

Israel graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in 2002, and has since taught photography in most of the prominent art and photography colleges in Israel.

  • Open 11am-6pm (12pm-5pm Saturday, closed Sunday, Monday and Bank Holidays). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @ImpGalleryPhoto.

More pictures:

A photo of a young woman dozing on a sandy mountain, her head resting on a bag
Nili Asleep, Nebi Musa (2010)© Yaakov Israel
A photo of mossy woodland and thin trees on top of a misty mountain
Swimming Pool, Northern Judean Desert (2011)© Yaakov Israel
A photo of various lush light brown trees underneath a tall misty mountain blue sky
Sinkholes, Ein Gedi (2011)© Yaakov Israel
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