The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, clashes on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and far-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir. These are some of the compelling winning photographs currently on display at the 19th annual World Press Photo and Local Testimony dual exhibitions at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
Local Testimony, which features the works of Israel-based photographers, is being presented alongside the prestigious World Press Photo exhibition.
The works of about 100 artists are on display in the two shows, which present the cream of the crop of local and international photojournalism and documentary photography.
In addition to the most recent events in Israel, Local Testimony this year also decided to exhibit pictures from the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“We felt that there was such a strong [connection] of what happens there to what happens here because of the big Russian and Ukrainian communities that live here and the Ukrainian refugees that arrived to Israel,” Dana Wohlfeiler-Lalkin, founder and manager of the World Press Photo and Local Testimony exhibits in Israel, told The Media Line.
Some of the photos on display, which were taken in war zones or in the midst of riots, demonstrate how photojournalists often find themselves on the frontlines of dangerous situations.
“As a photographer and as a photojournalist you’re exposed to a lot: a lot of conflicts, a lot of situations that are sometimes unbearable like terror attacks or war,” Yuval Tebol, a veteran photographer and lecturer at Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “I think that the importance of a documentary commitment is huge.”
The Photo of the Year award for Local Testimony was given to a strikingly evocative picture taken by Itai Ron.
It shows young ultra-Orthodox men sitting in a tree during the funeral of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leader Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, who died earlier this year.
“You can see that it’s about much more than documenting the ultra-Orthodox Jews on the trees at that funeral,” Tebol said. “When you see photojournalists document a funeral or the [aftermath] of a terror attack, you can see the point of view of the photographer much closer than when you hear about it on the news.”
Local Testimony also includes documentary works, such as Eti Namir’s series showcasing the inner workings of a large veterinary hospital in Israel.
“For the past one and a half years I’ve been documenting the Beit Dagan University Veterinary Hospital, where they treat large animals,” Namir explained. “It’s not something people know enough about.”
In parallel with Local Testimony, the World Press Photo touring exhibit presents the works of 24 of the world’s top photographers. This year’s winners were chosen by an independent jury that reviewed more than 64,820 photographs from 4,066 photographers in 130 countries.
In addition to offering photojournalists a platform for their work, the exhibitions highlight the importance of press freedom by paying tribute to those that lost their lives on the job. According to Reporters Without Borders, 46 journalists were killed and another 488 imprisoned in 2021.
In a world that has become inundated with images, Wohlfeiler-Lalkin hopes that those visiting the exhibit will leave with a better understanding of the importance of the work carried out by photojournalists.
“I want people to feel; I want people to get excited,” she said. “It’s not an easy exhibition. It’s an exhibition that actually asks you to take a look at some issues which are not easy.”
The World Press Photo and Local Testimony dual exhibitions will be on display at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv until February 11.