My Pursuit for Happiness: Life in the West Bank

As I opened the curtains every morning and looked out into the sunrise peeking through the narrow alleyway, I realize that the sacrifices of branching out of my long-lived comfort zone to pursue my vision of becoming a portrait and visual storyteller were almost in tune. I’ve immersed myself within this concrete jungle to find a new perspective in life and its untold stories. My cameras are my eyes. It represents what I see in the world and how I see it. I’ve always wanted to use this tool to make a difference in people’s lives, but I never could figure out exactly how to do that. I’d like to think of myself as a realist and in turn, want to show the real side of every story; the hidden truth. Moving to New York, I thought the answer would hit me right in the face or at least become more obvious on how to go about figuring it out. What I really found out was that New York City could eat you up and spit you back out with no remorse. It’s a dog eat dog world in the photography industry, and at times, you may be stuck figuring things out on your own. I pushed hard to engage within certain social circles, picked up gigs as a first assistant, jumped into internships at some of the top studios in the country to meet and learn from other photographers and artists that had their own stories to share and advice to give. But, it seemed like everyone just kept saying the same thing; “What’s important to you? What do you want your photographs and content to represent?’’ For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a straight answer; I had an idea. I began to question my abilities, and my purpose. What was I doing here? What kind of photographer am I trying to be? Who am I?!

Portrait that was taken in one of the previous studios I shot with in New York, New York. 

I already felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, but this just kept pushing down on me to the point where I needed to take a step back and reanalyze everything I thought I knew about my goals and career. I felt like I was suffocating as I tried to make a living and follow my dreams at the same time. New York became a constant reminder that I needed to step up my game and figure things out. Giving up was not an option.

 I knew my goal with my images and concepts was for people to feel what I feel. I want to create a visual story that causes a cycle of emotions for the onlooker. As said by Donald McCullin, “Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” As an Israeli-American, I keep my culture at heart and I feel the pain and anguish going on in parts of the Middle East through a variety of different media outlets. Maybe I need to go back and press the ‘refresh’ button. Maybe I need to be in an environment where the constant sounds and pressure of the city doesn’t distract me from why I am doing what I am doing. Maybe I can tell my story from within the hidden truth; a place where no one is really looking and a place where I can always call home.

My home away from home. 

Just before Hanukah, and at the height of the will to figure out my life, I packed my equipment and jumped on a one-way flight to a settlement in Itamar, Israel. Deep into the Ha’ Shomron Mountains in the Benyamin Region of Israel, this area is home to numerous Jewish settlements where the locals endure harsh terrain and weather conditions to get through their day to day responsibilities. After just a few weeks, I have been consumed by the cultural and geographical isolation within this community. It seems as though every working day that goes by I become more and more engulfed with questions that I seem confident I will find the answer to.

The rural views of the Ha' Shomron Mountains. 

Some would say that I couldn’t take the pressure and that I’m running away from a situation I can’t get myself out of. But others would praise me on my voyage of self-realization. I needed my time to put the pieces of the puzzle back together and find out what was important in my life. Within that time, I have been taking the steps to slowly put my ducks in order. It was a huge adjustment all around; one that I was nervous about at first. Everyday I challenge the expectations I have in my life and my career, making the possibility a reality.

Good Shabbas from the Cha'bad. 

Good Shabbas from the Cha'bad.