The Israeli photographer Adi Nes is dealing with questions about identity in his work. On December 12th the exhibition Narratives opened at Fotografiska in Stockholm.
Nes is portraying his own experiences of the complex political situation in Israel, being homosexual, growing up in a small village, born of immigrant Jews from Iran and his time in the army. When looking at his pictures, you get the feeling that you have just pressed the pause button in a middle of a film scene.
The best way to understand how I work is to think of film making
Adi Nes stage his pictures. He sets up a story, hiring models and using props to get the right mood in the photos. He describes himself as a scriptwriter and a director working with a team. It is often a long process of getting the right light and atmosphere in the pictures. The story being told is usually connected to Adi Nes own life, and the motives often refer to biblical scenes or well-known pictures in art history.
I start to make art in the point of who I am. I picture the struggle that we all have in ourselves.
The exhibition Narratives at Fotografiska displays four of Adi Nes series of work: Boys, Soldiers, The Village and Biblical Stories.
The series Boys pictures a time in life when identity of a young person is being formed. In the photos, Adi Nes returns to his own youth and questions about identity he had growing up. Great deals of what is being portrayed in Boys signify the Greek mythology, such as Narcissus, mirroring himself in the water. Nes is questioning what makes us to who we are; he is picturing different aspects in the life of young boys.
In the series Soldiers, Adi Nes continues portraying the development of young men’s identity. He explains that it is a significant time for young men in Israel, and that it is a time in life that forms your persona. Adi Nes himself served in the army and explains that he has a double relationship to the military culture. In one way he is very drawn to the macho- culture, and in one way he rejects it’s ideal. Israel is a country where the presence of war is constant and the army is a big part of the Israeli society. This, of course creates norms and values in society connected to the life in the army.
Adi Nes pictures is often said to be homoerotic and he is also known for casting models with Arabic appearance, because of his own ethnic background. But the artist doesn’t want to provoke his audience, for him the photos are more about identity.
The series The Village goes back to Adi Nes growing up on the countryside.
The Village represents Israel.
He describes Israel as a small place created after a catastrophe and that it is build as a village. Everyone in Israel has a tragedy in his or her family. He means that the tragedy can be the Holocaust or the conflict with Palestine, there is always a story that forms people’s identity. The village life can be explained in two ways, Adi continues. One is under the sun and close to nature. The other type of life being led is with the influence of strong ethics and moral. This explains how, in villages, identity and norms are being formed much stronger.
The series Biblical Stories was created after a critical point of Adi Nes life. It was in a time of war between Israel and Palestine, and the film industry and advertising business was suffering from economical crisis. Adi Nes lost his jobs and at the same time broke up with his boyfriend after a long-term relationship. He thought about moving from Israel, maybe to New York where the galley representing his work is located. But then he realized, that his artistic identity was too connected to Israel. He could not take pictures of Israel out of Israel.
The Hebrew is such a big part of my heritage
By using local urban environments and amateur models, Nes pictures an up – to date version of the bible by bringing the stories in to the present and reality. He focuses on displaying homeless people and scenes from the reality at the streets of Tel Aviv. Adi Nes wanted to question who the protagonist of the bible was. The pictures do not show the high points of the bible, but the traveling moments. The questions remains: who is the hero?
The exhibition Narratives by Adi Nes is produced as a collaboration between Fotografiska and the photographer himself. It is Adi Nes first exhibition in Scandinavia and will be displayed at Fotografiska in Stockholm until Mars 8th 2015.