I remember Jachin Hirsch as a prolific director of documentaries and as a cinematographer who collaborated with Israel’s top directors. He died about a decade ago. In the late 1950s, before he went to New York to study filmmaking, Hirsch worked on the Geva film studio’s newsreels, which were shown at movie theaters in Israel in the ‘50s and ‘60s. When he returned from the United States, Hirsch worked as a cinematographer on feature films and documentaries.
On my most recent visit to the Israel Architecture Archive, the archive’s founder, Zvi Elhayani, showed me a sampling of the thousands of photographs that Hirsch had left behind and that were deposited in the archive. Also on file was a collection from his wife, the artist and designer Siona Shimshi.
It was on that visit to the archive that I realized what a wonderful still photographer Hirsch was and how well he managed to bring his cinematic sensibilities to still images too. Only later did I discover that his photography had been widely exhibited and that he had taken photos all over the world.
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I got a sense from the photos that they were taken by a photographer who was also a cinematographer. This is particularly notable in the 1967 series of photos that Hirsch dubbed “A Day in Jerusalem with Alfred Hitchcock.” (That’s what he wrote on the envelope containing the negatives). Hitchcock can be seen visiting the Knesset and the Israel Museum, which had just been built, and also wandering around older sites, such as Mea She’arim, the city’s markets and the Dormition Abbey above the Valley of Hinnom, which at the time overlooked the abandoned stone buildings that would later become the Jerusalem Cinematheque. I saw a different Jerusalem in the photographs from the one that I know – without the Old City and with a wall in its midst.
Hitchcock came to Israel in 1967, several months before the Six-Day War, as part of Israel’s attempt to improve its image in the world. He was in Jerusalem for just 24 hours. At the time, his power as a filmmaker had begun to wane, but in Israel there were high hopes that, in addition to the publicity generated by the visit, he would fall in love with the Jerusalem’s landscapes and want to shoot his next film there.
Two young filmmakers, Micha Shagrir and Jachin Hirsch, were hired to record the brief visit. Their assignment was to prepare a short movie for the Israel Film Service. Hirsch took along a still camera in addition to his movie camera.
In looking at his photos, it’s interesting to bear in mind that ahead of the visit, Hirsch had watched all of Hitchcock’s films to study his camera angles and to attempt to recreate them. Unlike the short documentary film “With Hitchcock in Jerusalem” that Shagrir and Hirsch produced, these black-and-white still photographs seem much more in keeping with the great British-American director’s world.
Daniel Tchetchik has worked at Haaretz since 2003, photographing for the Galleria and weekend supplements. He is creator and editor of the Haaretz photography blog. His work has been exhibited in Israel’s top museums and at a number of exhibitions abroad. His work may be viewed at danieltchetchik.com