A Visual Tour of Israel with Photographer Yuli Gorodinsky


enRoute Can you tell me about your background as a photographer? When did you get into photography?

Yuli Gorodinsky I was 24 years old and going through a serious breakup when I bought my first camera. I felt stuck, and I used photography as a tool to reconnect with the world. Then I went to film school but dropped out to travel to India. I figured I would use that time to rest and think about the meaning of life, but instead I ended up photographing everything obsessively. When I came back, I taught myself about photography and art. I spent hours in front of the computer studying the history of photography and going to galleries and museums.

ER You immigrated to Israel from Russia as a child. What main contrasts have you noticed between both countries?

YG It’s difficult to compare the two. Israel is smaller than the city where I grew up. There’s a feeling of great vastness in Russia; you can drive for days without ever seeing the end of the road. Israel, on the other hand, can be crossed in six hours. Here I feel like a tourist who never really quite belonged.

February 13, 2019
Billboards with pictures of clouds on them interact with clouds in the sky and partly obscure some under-construction skyscrapers, creating a surreal effect.
Ramat Gan: This picture was taken in the Diamond Exchange District of the city of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv. The home of Israel’s diamond industry, which now boasts some of the region’s tallest highrise buildings, has become a hub for tech companies over the last few years. The picture–perfect clouds featured on this construction fence seemed so ironic to me, almost cruel, that I had to take a photo. But when I later looked at it, I discovered that there was more to this image than simple irony. I think that when all you see is the reflection of clouds in mirror–like towers, then maybe looking at an image of clouds somehow feels more real than the rest.

ER What specific themes do you explore in your photography?

YG Photography is a way for me to approach an unknown landscape and create a sense of intimacy. The medium has allowed me to uncover a perspective that has always lived within myself – that of an immigrant, an eternal outsider. My work constantly aims to establish a dialogue with the local landscape.

ER You photograph a lot of relics. What attracts you to that type of subject?

YG I like to imagine myself wandering in a post–apocalyptic world, trying to make sense of the past through the relics I encounter. It’s a way for me to get to the essence of our man–made world and its inevitable interaction and integration with nature.

ER According to you, what makes an image powerful or exciting?

YG A unique point of view of the everyday and the fleeting beauty that evades everyone else’s attention.

A landscape photograph with a mountain, an apartment block and a McDonald's in the background and grass and palm trees in the foreground.
Dead Sea: This shopping mall is located on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Even though the Dead Sea is one of the most magical places I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, I wanted to point my lens away from it. In the last few years, the area has seen its fair share of devastation due to the extreme exploitation of its natural resources by local industries. Instead of capturing the destruction, I decided to turn my gaze toward this lush, air–conditioned oasis, where a towering McDonald’s sign seems to be declaring its love for escapist capitalism. I like to capture paradoxical moments of beauty like this one.

ER For this series, we asked you to curate surprising moments from Israel. How did you interpret that?

YG I tried to choose the photographs that would best show contrasts and contradictions (without being too political) while maintaining my esthetic – one that combines composition, colour and a much–needed sense of humour to balance it all out.

ER What inspires you about living in Tel Aviv?

YG Tel Aviv functions as a bubble – culturally and mentally. It’s a large–scale collage of cultures and people, architecture and palm trees, noises and rhythms, which makes it overwhelmingly unpredictable and always surprising.

ER What would be your dream photo assignment?

YG I would love to visit India again. It’s where I fell in love with photography, and I would love to experience it through my current perspective.

Distant people in groups on a sandy beach and the large steps that lead down to it.
Jaffa Beach: This is what a lazy winter afternoon looks like at Jaffa beach, near Tel Aviv. It’s one of my favourite places to relax and watch the sunset. Separating Jaffa from Tel Aviv, this area is a gathering place for young people looking to escape the Florentine neighbourhood and for local families and tourists seeking to break free from the city’s overcrowded flea markets. Every few hours, church bells and the adhan (the Islamic call to prayer) can be heard, highlighting the beach’s multicultural appeal.

ER What’s one thing you take with you on every trip and why?

YG Headphones. Music plays a big part in finding inspiration. Sometimes it’s important to turn the music off to get a feel for the environment, but, usually, it helps me find the visual rhythm in my surroundings.

ER What are some of your favourite accounts on Instagram?

YG If you want to see some unique points of view from Israel, I suggest checking out the account of photojournalist @odedbalilty. For some colour and humour, I like @teddyco’s feed. For a daily dose of inspiration, I can always count on Geffen Refaeli’s illustrations at @dailydoodlegram.

A group of people stands watching the Pride parade in Tel Aviv. It's sunny.
Tourists During Pride Parade: My instinct is to always look in the opposite direction of the main attractions in search of a behind–the–scenes overview of the culture. This photo was taken during Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade – an extremely crowded, colourful and steamy gathering of people from around the world. Standing on the deck in front of “mer” (French for sea), the people watching the parade go by looking like the passengers of a cruise ship, all of them as colourful as the performers without meaning to be.