David and Shlomo Serry, father and son, photographed the Dead Sea in different periods and from different perspectives. Shlomo talks about the works of his late father and how he rescued them:
“Even as a child I recall that my father, David Serry, liked to take pictures, alongside the fine metalworks that he made. He began taking his Zeiss Ikon 6x9 format camera with him everywhere before he turned 15. Later on he switched to a Leica 35mm.
“My father carefully saved all his negatives, keeping them in meticulous order. On the flat 6x9 negatives he would write the date and location of the photograph, often with a brief explanation. He catalogued and numbered the 35mm negatives, writing the month and the year on the end of every roll. The negatives were rolled and stored in numbered cardboard boxes, 15 to a box.
“I found the boxes after my father’s death in 1981. I was happy to see that the 6x9 negatives were in relatively good shape, but unfortunately many of the 35mm rolls were damaged as a result of the high humidity and above all due to having been kept rolled up. As a result, they lost their flexibility and became stiff and sticky. It was very difficult to flatten them out, but despite that I managed to salvage around half of them and to scan them.”
“In some of the pictures David poses the hikers and they seem to be gladly submitting themselves to the photographer and his camera,” writes curator and photographer Guy Raz. “In other pictures David manages, with his sensitive eye, to take documentary photos which at the same time are aesthetic and even have unusual angles of photography, the picture of boarding the boat is simple and moving without any ‘artistic’ manipulations. Only the time, the documentation and the location of the photographer and his point of view create the picture.”
We clearly made mistakes with the Dead Sea over the course of decades. It’s easy to blame the politicians or global warming, but the main responsibility for the situation sits squarely on the shoulders of the Dead Sea Works and on us. These old photographs show the Dead Sea in the days when it was “alive,” vibrant and full of hope. Expressions of faith, innocence and warmth are reflected in these grainy photographs.
Much has been said about the reasons for the desiccation of the Dead Sea. I see it as a pointed metaphor for the desiccation of Israel’s values. Perhaps the heat, pressure and sweat fray them too, the sinkholes swallow them and the extraction pipes suck them up. Serry’s photographs are wonderful. They provide heartwarming nostalgia mixed with sorrow for the salt lake as it was and the community that lived alongside it, beneath the beating sense.
From the Haaretz photography blog, curated by Daniel Tchetchik.