The cache beneath the house
Since writing here about the photographer on the kibbutz where I grew up - who wanted to take my picture with my back erect when I was 12, but got only a crooked smile - I have learned more about him.
1. Since writing here about the photographer on the kibbutz where I grew up - who wanted to take my picture with my back erect when I was 12, but got only a crooked smile - I have learned more about him. Karni Am-Ad, from Kibbutz Matzuva, told me the following: Once a fire broke out on that kibbutz and all the members rushed to put it out. Only the photographer stood aside, and with the camera that was always slung over his shoulder, tried to capture the flames in his lens. Asked why he wasn't helping, like everyone else, he replied: I am photographing history. I told Karni: I think that's a kibbutz legend, a folktale. To which he replied: Yes, but it says something about the man.
2. The photographer put the following proposition to the kibbutz: In the mornings he would take pictures and at night he would clean the public toilets. There are kibbutz members who remember him wandering the paths in the hours between night and dawn, wearing black boots and carrying a brush. After that, Karni told me, he would go about his photography work, which he pursued indiscriminately. Leaves, trees, passport photos, every large and small event, landscapes, fields - whatever. Hundreds and thousands of photographs. And photos of girls, I asked. Yes, photos of young girls, he replied.
3. In 1993, as was noted here, the photographer died at the age of 83 when he decided to walk the six kilometers back to the kibbutz in the dark from the regional council building, where he had watched a movie. Karni related that the photographer turned down an offer from a young couple to have a cup of coffee with them and get a ride back in their car. When he collapsed next to the gate of the kibbutz, the night watchman rushed out of his booth and leaned over him. These were his last words: "They forgot me."
4. When I was a girl, I thought that the photographer and his wife, who dragged her legs along the kibbutz paths, like his shadow, had no children. In fact, they had three daughters, Karni Am-Ad told me. They all left the kibbutz. One of them is no longer alive. When he contacted them with a request to talk about their father, they refused vehemently. During the period when they decided not to remain on kibbutz, people who left received only a modest grant. The mother, who stayed in touch with the daughters, tried to help them get along. With their father they did not speak a word. What were their relations with their father before the separation? Those who know will not talk about it.
5. Beneath the house of the photographer on the kibbutz, between the earth on which it was built and the cement floor, a space was formed that served as a storeroom and a hiding place. A member of the kibbutz who gained the trust of the photographer because he wanted him to exhibit his photos persuaded him to show him what was hidden there. Ten-thousand photographs and negatives, some of them completely ruined, lay beneath the house.
Also lying there were photographs of naked young girls.