Stormy Weather

This is a landscape photograph of a very rare sort. A photo that focuses not on the Israeli light but on its absence, whose subject is not an open space, but rather murk and dust.

In this hypnotic photograph of haze on the Kiryat Shmona highway there is no light. It’s not quite clear just what is obscuring the sky, what time it is and where the mountains and the sun and moon are. And the people in their cars: Where are they and what are they doing as the weather dulls the day?

haze in Kiryat Shmona, Yaron Kaminsky
Yaron Kaminsky

This is a landscape photograph of a very rare sort. A photo that focuses not on the Israeli light but on its absence, whose subject is not an open space, but rather murk and dust that obscure clarity. This is a photograph whose Israeliness is related to a sensation of being stifled, to the way the landscape is stifled and how the greenery − rather than underscoring its majesty − is merely struggling to survive within it. This is a picture of obfuscation and concealment, of imperfection that is antithetical to beauty. A photo that becomes a cataract in the eye of the beholder.

Yaron Kaminsky photographed this late-summer haze on September 28. His photo harks back to the art of painting, to the human ability to capture a scene after it has passed. This is a photograph that was snapped in one brief moment, and yet seems to have been painted over the course of many days.

And one can almost touch it, feel the grains of dust clouding the surface of the day, sense the grim mood. This is a photograph-painting of surrender: The low bushes lie there wearily while the two taller cypresses draw the eye and stretch a vague line between them, as dust darkens and blurs the horizon.

Cypresses are among the most Israeli of trees, and Israeli art loves its cypresses. On Kaminsky’s Kiryat Shmona highway, they are all disheveled and tilting to the side, bearing no resemblance to the neat and erect cypresses pointing sharply skyward as painted by the great naturalist artist Israel Hirschberg. In Kaminsky’s photo all of that precision has melted away. Here, then, is where the drama of Romanticism occurs.

As the dense gusts tangle the cypresses, the mouths of the people in the cars on the Kiryat Shmona highway fill with the taste of sand. And perhaps in one of them − a Toyota, let’s say − a lean woman sits beside a man seething with fury. And he is thinking to himself that she is one ungrateful piece of work, who doesn’t appreciate how important and strong and smart and successful he is, and how much better he is than all the average schmos in his field, who don’t know how to be managers and only want quiet.

And he asks himself how she can even question his right to do as he sees fit and deliberately harp on him, and thinks that if she really understood how respected and feared he is, she wouldn’t have had the nerve to leave the room the night before without his permission, and that she’s the one bringing upon herself everything that is happening to her right now, and why does she get so worked up when he comments on little things like her unflattering blouse, or her voice, and he’s been so patient up to now, but she’s just embarrassing, just like the one before her. Like all of them.

In this landscape there is no hint of beauty. Certainly none of the beauty of the youth Kyparissos, who, distraught over having mistakenly killed the beloved stag given to him by Apollo, beseeched the gods to let him mourn forever and so was transformed by them into a cypress tree.

The car moves. And she thinks: It’s all dust. He is dust. He is just dust.