Road Trip

A thoughtful, simple, profound photograph by Yaron Kaminski captures Fassuta, on the slopes of Mount Meron.

This thoughtful, simple, profound photograph by Yaron Kaminski captures Fassuta, on the slopes of Mount Meron, on November 3: There is the road, the weather and a cypress tree. A week later at a Sotheby's auction, a buyer paid $4.3 million for German photographer Andreas Gursky's "Rhine II." This huge, exemplary work, two by three and a half meters in size, was rendered digitally by the photographer, with people and buildings omitted and the image showing only desolate strips of water, grass and sky. Apart from the calculations inherent in the politics of art sales and the vicissitudes of international exchange rates, there is a simple reply to the question of why so much money was paid for a landscape photograph: It is beautiful. And not just beautiful, calming and symmetrical. It is quiet. Clean. The consummate embodiment of the ideal of a landscape painting.

Kaminski's photograph is more earnest. Dealing not so much with artistic self-rendering, it concentrates instead on the simplicity of the reflection, on the isolation of the tree on the road. It was photographed through the windshield of a car, and one can see thumb-smudged drops on the lower third of it. The road is patched and furrowed; its yellow line is broken. Four cables running from an electricity pole pierce the fog, and then disappear in the center of the photograph, into the recesses behind the cypress tree, which looks tall but is actually short and young. If you fix your gaze and concentrate, you can see the next pole in a mist-clouded distance traversed by a road that actually leads somewhere. The road has a purpose. The photograph's beauty is thus found in its composition, in the position of the tree and its dignified bearing, and in the electric lines that evaporate into some symbolic nothingness.

Rain at Fassuta - Kaminski - Nov 3, 2011
Yaron Kaminski

Fassuta's local council has been in existence since 1965, and the majority of its residents, some 3,000 people, are Christian Arabs. Perhaps that is the reason why the cypress looks to the viewer like a Christmas tree. This is not a particularly Israeli photograph, even though the cypress is quintessentially Israeli. It lacks yellow light and dryness; it lacks a crisis mode and does not depict an identifiable "site." But the more one studies it and grasps its blend of isolation and tranquillity in rendering the characteristic road theme, it comes across as an antidote to the noise, desperation, tension and stress, the crises and schisms, the aggression and intolerance, the contradictions and danger that burden Israel's situation.

It offers relief from politicians like Ze'ev Elkin, who labors with efficient intelligence on the grand project of creating a state bereft of expressions of dissent to the idea of Jewish prerogative rights from the Jordan to the sea. You can put all that to rest for a moment when you look at the true colors of November in this photograph, with its pictorial quality whose structure resembles the work of Ori Reisman, whose color resembles Asad Azi, and whose depiction of the tree brings to mind Israel Hirschberg. You can rest, think of paths of escape, of loving relations, of the journey to the non-drama of genuine human relations. A look at the road to Fassuta.