I am pleased to debut my latest series, Spotlight, in which I highlight the work of emerging, noteworthy photographers worldwide who create meaningful, memorable work. It is an honor to introduce my first guest, Israeli photographer Ronen Goldman (pictured above in his own work), whose imagery – both commercial and fine-art – investigates the limits of verisimilitude and the suspension of disbelief. Below, check out our recent conversation covering topics as diverse as the “Israeli question,” painstaking post-production, and the pursuit of bringing one’s own, internal “dreamworld” to viewers’ eyes.
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Photos by Ronen Goldman
Your conceptual approach to photography yields dynamic, at times surreal, results. Talk about the notion of the “photo dream.” From what influences did you develop such an entry point into the art of photography?
I have always been interested in dreams. It seems to me that experiences we have while sleeping are sometimes as powerful and meaningful as “real events.” The subconscious is such an intriguing and uncharted land, and always proves itself a worthy realm for exploration. This preoccupation with my own subconscious is how my Photo-Dreams series came to life; it is an attempt to recreate dreams or dream fragments through photography. Once this series started to accumulate more and more entries, it became a collection known as the “Surrealistic Pillow Project.” I’m influenced by the surrealist movement that took the subconscious-based art to amazing levels. Artists like De-Chirico, Magritte, Man Ray, Ives Tanguy and Dali are among my favorites.
Your identity as an Israeli – a contested political, social and economic territory – has surely shaped your identity as an artist. How does your sociocultural background shape the way you see the world from behind the lens of a camera?
Israel is a very “loaded” place to live – for so many reasons. Truthfully, I try not to get political with my art, since my subconscious is much more amorphous. There is no doubt, though, that living here creates some deep-rooted ebbs and flows of anxiety, paranoia and exhilaration that are evidenced in the photographs I create.
You were one of the winners of Catherine Hall Studios’ Exploration of a Muse photography contest. How did you first hear about the contest, what inspired you to enter, and how did you create your winning submission?
I follow Catherine’s TWiT Photo podcast and was excited to find the competition on Google+. The subject of “Exploration of a Muse” was too good not to enter, so I did – right away! My winning submission is called “Master Magician.” I depicts a mysterious man in the woods, who is throwing cards in the air that magically spiral towards the camera. Creating this image was painstakingly long, since I shoot all parts of my images on location. I shot every single card in that photo separately and in its unique position and then combined the layers of photos together to create the spiral.
What guiding impulses – both intrinsic and extrinsic – drive you to take pictures?
Every photo starts from a dream or fragment I remember. I then sit and start exploring what interests me about the dream and figuring out why it appeared to me in the first place. I develop the idea into an image in the real world, somehow devising a way to call it into existence, despite all the technical and photographic constraints. My drive comes from wanting to share complex, abstract ideas with other people.
Your artistic process obviously requires a lot of technological manipulation. What gear and software are indispensable to your photography?
Nowadays, I use a 5D Mark II, which I absolutely love. I also use an array of prime lenses, but some of my best images were created early-on with a Canon 350D and pretty unsophisticated lenses. Photoshop, of course, is indispensable to me.
Who are three of the most influential figures in your growth as a photographer?
I am influenced by any art I run into, whether it’s painting, music, sculpture, or literature. I appreciate anything that involves people making thought provoking objects for others to to view or experience. Choosing three is very hard, but I’d say they are:
He created worlds of poetry by juxtaposing objects in beautiful ways, and made the viewers believe that what they are looking at is impossibly real.
He created beautiful, masterful music even when nobody was listening.
His keen eye – ready to freeze whatever it is the world displayed in front of him and arrange it all, amazingly, in split seconds – is astonishing.
Did you receive formal training in photography – and, if so, where did you study? How valuable is a university education or technical degree for people who aspire to become professional photographers?
I attended Tel Aviv University, where I studied film, script writing and storytelling. There is no doubt these subjects influence my work today, although I really only got into photography after graduating, so I can’t say that I have any formal training whatsoever. That said, education is extremely important, especially in a field like photography where there is so much technical stuff that one should really know about. I got all my photography education from reading books, magazines and Internet resources. There is so much you can learn online, and learning that way was the right way for me. If you feel more comfortable studying at a university you should do it – whatever path is best for you to acquire knowledge is the journey that you should take.