I’m so happy to report that Israeli photographer Yaakov Israel has won the PHotoEspaña Descubrimientos (PHE12 Discoveries) 2012 Award for his series The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey. As the winner Israel will take part in PHotoEspaña 2013. The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey was the inaugural exhibition in May at Zelda Cheatle and Deborah Goldman’s new gallery Margaret Street Gallery, see images below, including one of Yaakov and his wife Maya. The work is featured in a book of the same name published by Schilt Publishing.
I first saw Israel’s work at Arles photo festival a few years ago and interviewed him for the April/May 2012 issue of Hotshoe. Excerpt from the feature I wrote in Hotshoe April/May 2012: “A quest is a specific type of journey, one that implies a search for something, and is a familiar plot device used in narratives, both visual and literary. As used in the title of Yaakov’s debut monograph, it is a concept that replaced that of the “photographic journey” as the project developed. In tandem with the idea of a quest, there is also a type of storytelling, more akin to that of a parable, flowing through the book. For Yaakov, the turning point came when he met a man on a white donkey in 2006 – four years into the project. “In the Jewish tradition, this man is supposed to be a religious prophet dressed in white robes. Whereas the man I met was a Palestinian farmer who materialized in the Judean desert in 45-degree heat. The encounter had a biblical feel to it and made me realize that I was really on a quest to explore what it means to be Israeli, and for me to live in this country. Up until then I’d just been looking, but once I understood the project – when I could write down what I was looking for – it presented itself everywhere. It didn’t matter where I was.
“Thus, Yaakov also embarks on an internal, psychological quest in his search for self-identity in a fractured and complex cultural context. “The more I worked on the project, the more I understood that it was not just about the geographical or social aspects of contemporary Israel, but also about the myths and the religions, as well as political and human aspects. It’s like I’m looking for something that only exists when I look at it,” he says. The images that are included in the book therefore are ones that represent for him “the journey and the idea of the journey simultaneously – the mental journey, the physical journey, and the idea of the quest”. Miranda Gavin
The jury of Descubrimientos PHE12 consisted of Anne McNeill, director of Impressions Gallery (Bradford, United Kingdom); Markus Schaden, editor and founder of Schaden (Germany); and Roger Szmulewicz, director of the Fifty One Fine Art Photography Gallery(Belgium). Israel’s porfolio was presented in a review session at Centro de Arte Alcobendas of Madrid during June.
The winners of the last editions of the prize are Fernando Brito,Vanessa Winship, Alejandra Laviada, Yann Gross, Harri Palviränta, Stanislas Guigui, Vesselina Nikolaeva, Comenius Röthlisberger, Pedro Álvarez, Tanit Plana, Sophie Dubosc, Juan de la Cruz Megías, Paula Luttringer and Matías Costa.