An Artistic Triumph in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market

With Baharlia, the surroundings are not sterile, the people are important, and the movement is not severed from the performer.

In the air. To be in the air. To jump and remain airborne. This fantastical, spectacular photograph of the dancer Leo Lerus, taken by Gabriel Baharlia in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, is a moment of artistic triumph. It is an act of collaboration in which Lerus' rare and exceptional physical ability effectively coalesces with Baharlia's spatial, aesthetic and conceptual approach.

In this photograph, the dancer / foreign worker Lerus is shopping, basket in hand, and the other people - the ordinary folk who do not possess physical capabilities of this kind - are not looking at him or pointing at him. And all of them together, despite the fact that they are ostensibly not mutually acquainted, create a harmony of contrasts, such that the hyperrealistic aspect of the photograph becomes so warm, so fraught with humor and love of humanity, that it melts.

Leo Lerus, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv
Gabriel Baharlia

The people in the market are in no way only a "background," intended to throw into relief Lerus' skill. They are not extras in someone else's drama but, like him, belong in the world. The fact is that Baharlia is not so much enabling amazement at the acrobatic dimension of the motion, or even at his own virtuosity as a photographer, as he is observing others. His photograph talks about how people live together, create spaces, allow another person to transcend, be singular, express himself.

The details, too, coalesce into a unity of opposites: The pattern of cherries on Lerus' shirt pitted against the green of his shoes and the green of his basket, which will be filled when he lands, if he lands. The disparity between the open movement and the foot tensed in a perfect flex, and a certain rigidity and tension which is causing the young woman with the gold jewelry and the plastic hairpin to bend the thumb of her left hand inward. The disparity between the greasiness of the layers of dirt that have accumulated on the iron shutter, on the well-worn stone paths, on the drainage bars, on the eroded wooden platforms on the left; and the glare of the polished vitrine on the right, behind which meat is becoming red. And the word dagim (fish ) in red letters between Lerus and the woman. This market has everything: people, language, material, dirt, motion, story.

Lerus, 31, was born in Guadeloupe and is a creative partner and dancer in the fascinating Maria Kong Dancers Company. Two weeks ago, he danced in the "Point of Contact" project at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, in which he and three other dancers from abroad made reference to the term "foreign worker." For him, the effort and the desire to be accepted and to be understood transcend the distinction between types of work - dancing or construction, it makes no difference.

Baharlia, a photographer with a broad range of interests, understands Lerus. Respects him. After all, there are photographers who use dancers, exploit them to realize their artistic statement, like the French photographer Denis Darzacq, who is known for his "Hyper" series in which a hip-hop dancer whose face is not visible hovers at a low height in front of a wall of exposed concrete, or in an empty supermarket with stacked shelves. But with Baharlia, the surroundings are not sterile or alienated, the people are important, and the movement - however beautiful - is not severed from the performer. This photograph was great from the moment Lerus leaped and Baharlia pressed the button. It is great because Baharlia sees everyone and he really caught him in time.