Girls on Film - and Behind the Camera

Haaretz photographer Michal Fattal says that emotions are the filter through which she sees the world.

Daniel Tchetchik
Daniel Tchetchik
Daniel Tchetchik
Daniel Tchetchik

Michal Fattal, 35, a photographer for Haaretz since 2009, focuses mainly on documentary photography and personal projects.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman photographer?

“It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes my point of view unique as a woman, but I think the advantage may be manifest when my gaze is directed at other women. In such situations, there is more ease and openness toward the camera. As a woman my gaze is often perceived as more empathetic and less threatening, and this makes it possible to get closer and be more present in the situation, while at the same time to be assimilated in it and make my presence felt as little as possible. Often, this sense of closeness and intimacy occurs with women from foreign cultures, too, just out of some universal understanding that doesn’t require any words [of explanation].”

How is your point of view different?

“As a woman I look at the world through a filter of emotions, for better and for worse. Of course, one can’t say that this is what makes women photographers unique, that it applies to them alone, but still I feel sure that this is very present with them, as is a certain compassion and sensitivity to the nuances of things. Sometimes the camera helps me to find the fragility of the emotions that are captured in passing moments − the ones the lens captures and the eye doesn’t always take in.”

What are you looking for with your photography? Or what do you discover after the fact?

“For me, documentary photography is a tool for observing others. Through it I try to understand the conflicts and motivations and passions of a person, and through all that, perhaps mine as well. Because of this, as a woman photographer, I am most drawn to observing other women, to examining the strengths and the weaknesses of the female gender and the power relations between women and men, and by capturing this, trying to understand my femininity and my place in society as a woman.”

Has photography given you answers? Or has it confused you more?

“There’s no question that through the act of documentation I’m searching for answers, seeking to understand the world, the human race and the extremely complex Israeli society in which I live. But ironically, instead of getting answers, usually I end up with more and more questions. On the other hand, this confusion and endless questioning just pushes me to keep on digging and searching for the elusive answer, which might not ever come, but at least a lot of wonderful things happen on the way.”

Jerusalem, 2007.Credit: Michal Fattal

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