Splitting Images: Two Photographers, One Unorthodox Approach

Israeli photographers Daniel Tchetchik and Oren Izre'el have taken their unique approach to capturing the lives of everyday folk from Israel, to Paris and across the U.S. Now they want to go global.

Their first joint project grew out of a desire to present the world with a different, more realistic portrayal of life in Israel.

“We felt that most of the photographic images coming out of here either depicted conflict and war, or on the flip side, girls sunning themselves on the beach and the Gay Pride parade,” recounts photojournalist Daniel Tchetchik. “But the truth always lies somewhere between these two extremes, and that’s the area that interests us most.”

Thus was born their first series, “In Reality,” that took Tchetchik and his artistic collaborator, Oren Izre’el, on a journey around the country in 2008 with cameras in tow. On their quest to capture moments of daily life that reflected some of the bigger changes overtaking Israeli society, they came up with a new approach to shooting stills: photographing the same exact scene at the same exact moment from two different angles. They called it “Divided Moment.”

It’s a pretty radical concept, as Tchetchik, a staff photographer at Haaretz, explains. “The idea was to introduce another point of view into the story. For a photographer like me that requires lessening your own ego and opening yourself up to what your partner is seeing.”

Their new unorthodox approach to photography piqued the interest of the French embassy in Israel, which subsequently sent Tchetchik and Izre’el to Paris to do a similar series there – this one called “Deleted Scenes” (each shot taken was paired with another, less picture-postcard-looking version, which, under other circumstances would have been discarded). Roaming the streets of the French capital, Tchetchik and Izre’el were struck by the similarities they observed with Tel Aviv, particularly the way immigration from Africa had transformed the city landscape. It got them thinking about taking their project global.

And that’s how two Israeli photographers ended up crisscrossing America this past year documenting scenes of ordinary life, primarily in the urban centers, many of them from two different angles. The fruits of this effort will be unveiled at an exhibit opening later this month in Tel Aviv called “Lost Roads.”

“As Israelis, we always tended to look at the United States as a big brother or as our parents – in other words, a figure we idolized,” notes Izre’el, a former high-tech professional who left a senior position at Intel’s Israel offices to pursue his passion for photography. “For us, this project was about discovering that your parents aren’t that perfect.”

To gather material, they took four separate trips to the United States in 2012 and 2013, during which time they spent a week-and-a-half in New York, another week-and-a-half in New Orleans, and the rest of the time driving from Seattle to Houston and from Miami to New York on back roads that included completely out-of-the-way detours to Chicago and Detroit. Altogether, they passed through 25 states.

Their flights were all paid for by Delta Airlines, which agreed to sponsor the project. “They were intrigued by our idea and saw this as a way of promoting two artists relatively unknown outside Israel,” says Tchetchik. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv is picking up the tab for the actual exhibit in Israel, which opens on July 23 at Rothschild 69 and runs through August 6.

“Lost Roads” includes nine pairs of “divided moment” photos, eight of them taken in New York City and one in New Orleans. “If you take photos from two different angles, you need to have people in them and they need to include dynamic scenes and a bit of chaos,” explains Tchetchik. “That’s why this type of photography lends itself more to big cities.”

The exhibit also includes a few more conventional stand-alone shots of small-town America.

Tchetchik is no stranger to the United States, having lived in Boston from age 7 to 14, when his family relocated there for his father’s job. Still, he says, from an artistic perspective it’s a hard place to make generalizations about. “It’s just so vast,” he notes. With the next few months, he hopes to have another excuse to travel back for the opening of the Israeli series “In Reality” at the Howard Greenberg gallery in New York.

Oren Izre'el and Daniel Tchetchik