Jonathan Levy / Jay L: Blog en-us (C) Jonathan Levy / Jay L [email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:43:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:43:00 GMT Jonathan Levy / Jay L: Blog 120 120 Authorized Penetration (in Progress) 2 From our email exchange "..The man-woman interaction, clearly stated ahead of time, frankly makes me wonder.. Where do you want to take this? On the other hand, I like the way you photograph and I usually like taking part in creative processes.."

The dialog that often takes place ahead of the event itself is part of the emotional build up towards the meeting. It sets up the stage for unease and discovery - and hopefully for a good work of video art.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 24 Nov 2014 06:53:36 GMT
Authorized Penetration (in progress)

As a continuation of my photography in private places, I am now working on a Video Art project - basically entering private places, with permission,  to discuss boundaries and introduce mutual discomfort. In previous posts I have referred to this project as "In Private Rooms". I have always been interested in the power play between "male-photographer" (or Artist in general) and "female-subject" - with its infamous impetus, "The Male Gaze". Although I am a result of my upbringing in a male dominant culture, I do try to be an active participant in the feminist just cause - that is to stop being objects (or only objects) for male consumers.

In this project I am looking for a new balance between natural desire and pleasure and female freedom - interfering with the expected power balance in a "photo-shoot".One of the methods is to transfer control to the subject.






[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Tue, 23 Sep 2014 05:46:11 GMT
In Private Rooms (in progress) This project is on going and has become the backbone of a parallel video art project I am working on. The essence of it is the exploration of the cumbersome, sometimes funny and always somewhat uncomfortable, negotiations that take place in private dialogs. These dialogs take place with women I am curious about during which they are handed control of the camera. I find this transition of "power" in both direction very interesting.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:45:16 GMT
In Private Rooms (in Progress) By entering a private space of someone else one creates a totally new space that is outside of the day to day existence of both. As a male photographer, I find it extremely interesting to tip the balance of power by giving up control of the shutter.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) private self space Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:20:41 GMT
Studio, 2009 (self next to Dina Levy's paintings) Self, 2009


[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Sun, 16 Mar 2014 13:33:44 GMT
Studio, 2009 20090211-_F7J103520090211-_F7J1035 It is so exciting to look back at work one did in the past, and take a fresh look. As being there at the time, I can recall my own state of mind when it was taken, and also remember what was on her mind. All this, however, has nothing to do with what the image may say to you, the viewer, if at all. Hopefully, it will say something.



[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Sat, 08 Mar 2014 20:55:32 GMT
More from "Real Estate"

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Tue, 11 Feb 2014 15:25:05 GMT
More from the "White Cube" This is an image created some months ago, during the "Fresh Paint" event of 2013. Sometimes I think I go to these Art places mainly for the people - the "material" of my own art making.

I discover my subjects in their "anonymous" state - yet I get a personal kick when they are rediscovered later, in other circumstances, and I have the opportunity to show them what they helped me create.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) white cube Sun, 24 Nov 2013 07:00:08 GMT
Studio The stark studio, assigned to me as part of my Advanced Studies in The School of Art, Hamidrasha, is a "place". A strange place that is furthest from the notion of "familiar" as can be. 

Getting to know a "place" intimately, to transform it to a magical place, is something I feel I can do with the camera.

I am looking forward to the good things will be born in this new place.


[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Art School Hamidrasha self studio Sun, 27 Oct 2013 07:46:13 GMT
Untitled Location: Saturday, 19th of October 2013, 5:56pm to 6:00pm Untitled Location, 19th of October 2013, from 5:56pm to 6:00pm Time has an unavoidable presence in photography. So has "truth" (or lack of). One may take these for granted or embrace them. I think it is so much more interesting to peel the surface of what you see and confront what you find. Even when you don't know how to put in in words. As I continue to think about my relationship with the reality of places, I look for  potential inclusions in my "Real Estate" project. So - Is this just a location, or "A Location"? Time will tell.


[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) location real-estate time truth Sun, 20 Oct 2013 07:30:07 GMT
From "White Cube"  

A continuing series depicting people in public spaces - in this case, in a particular type of "Public Space" - the art display "While Cube".


Binyamin Gallery in Tel Aviv (

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Binyamin Gallery White Cube Wed, 02 Oct 2013 08:49:55 GMT
Real Estate (a series in progress)  

It's about claiming a piece of public space, and interfering (one way or another) with the strangers around me.



[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) private public self series strangers Sun, 29 Sep 2013 06:46:52 GMT
London, 2013 20132013








[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) London public strangers Tue, 17 Sep 2013 12:02:29 GMT
The "Golda Project"  

The Golda Project is a joint initiative with “Golda”, a second hand clothing shop.

My goal is to combine Art, Consumerism and play in a new and fun way. The shop sells clothes. I, on the other hand, am interested in the female image as it is expressed in front of the camera.

This studio, set up in a spare room within the shop, instead of being just a “place where one comes to be photographed” is a central part of the exciting event. The photographs are, almost, just a byproduct to a most memorable experience.

And what about the Art?

As always, when photographing people, I look for the defenseless moments, the elusive place that creates an alternate reality that was not there.








[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Golda project studio Tue, 30 Apr 2013 16:15:00 GMT
Barbershop, Tel Aviv 2011 I have got off a bus, probably my first bus ride (in Israel) for more than twenty years. Makes one feel a tourist in your own country. What a great setting for a fresh look at the city you know so well.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Tel-Aviv barber public self Sun, 27 Feb 2011 22:10:00 GMT
Celeste Prize 2010

While not really news by now (the Celeste Prize 2010 took place in December 2010), I have only last week received the exhibition catalog.

"In another way the literal digital photographic approach without photoshop or subsequent digital manipulation is seen in a magnificently evocative photograph by Jay L. Entitled "Venice, March 2010", the work comes from a series taken in that city.. It has an immediate sense of "punctum", and the viewer is deeply touched by the young man's expectant waiting and sense of introspection. Visually in the tradition of the great post-war photographers there is a strong feeling of the incised moment about the image". (1)

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Celeste Prize New-York Venice Sat, 19 Feb 2011 06:13:00 GMT
Zuta - זוטא A weekly publication of a three poems and one image - in hebrew (Zuta)

There is a lot in common between poems and images: A poem to an image is like a story is to a film. Both capture a fleeting moment and, if good, live forever after in your mind.

As primarily visual person, I have not had much experience with poetry (beyond school at which time it was more of a chore), but I know I have been missing out and want to do something about it.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Tue, 01 Feb 2011 06:01:00 GMT
Jeff Wall & Me I attended, with several hundred other people, Jeff Wall's talk given at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. My "take away" points:

  • Welcome the accident. As one of the most meticulous photographers I know of, it was refreshing to learn how much Jeff Wall welcomes chance. He stressed he is unable to know, ahead of time, what the right photo will be. This does not say he doesn't plan what he wants, but he welcomes the unexpected. So many amateur photographers I talk to are obsessed with their internal need to "control everything". I think they are trapped by some version of  Ansel Adams' quote: "In my mind's eye, I visualize how a particular... sight and feeling will appear on a print.." They feel that any "accident" cannot be truly "theirs" - as they did not "create" it. What a pity. Photographers should rejoice in the opportunities given to us by our unpredictable world.
  • Take many photographs, select later. Jeff Wall has embraced digital photography in a big way - the ability to select the one photograph that stands out as the best from many (even thousands). Again - many amateurs feel that this would be "cheating" - and get hung up in their creative process.
  • While my photography couldn't be more different from Jeff Wall's - I did find a connection: Jeff Wall creates a "false reality" from a "true" incident he has actually experienced. That is, he recreates a real situation using a set and actors, much like making a movie. In my photography I do the opposite - I try to create a "false staged moment" from "true" reality. May people have asked me whether my photographs are staged, as they appear to them surreal in some way, which is what triggered this thought.
  • I like Jeff Wall's idea of being able to "capture" moments without a camera (so they are "real", with no camera to affect the subjects) - and recreating them later. I do not know how, or if, to use this idea - but it does make me think further on the relationship between photography, memory and reality.

And then, just the next day - out of the blue - I heard that a photograph of mine was selected to be one of 10 photography finalists in the 2010 Celeste Prize Exhibition in New York between 11th of 13th of December 2010 (

Winning this competition is not important. Being selected from many by a professional jury is enough. One of the judges selecting my work wrote to me: "I found it a strangely beautiful image, not only for formal reasons, but like a good photographs it possessed an inexplicable inner life". 
This exhibition does provide me the opportunity and justification to be in New York again. I do want the chance to see my photograph hanging on an exhibition wall for every one to see. Isn't it true that a picture can become Art only when viewed by someone?
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Sun, 07 Nov 2010 05:03:00 GMT
The wonder of people photography in the city A city is a place where people gather. Visiting an unfamiliar city is an opportunity to meet unfamiliar people in a place I do not know. I come as a visitor but I am not interested in the eye of a tourist. I do not want to photograph the city, to document what has been documented uncounted times before. The city is a pretext - its streets, houses, sights and sites are only a backdrop for the inner state of people in the city.

When I photograph in the street I want to photograph people that are special but not a spectacle. I also want this "specialness" to allow for an underlying "generalness" to shine through. I want the ultimate viewers of the photograph to lose a beat - not knowing why.

I wander around the city, full of wonderment. I seek the people that signal me with their silent messages, addressing my subconsciousness. I look at them through my lens, awaiting that split second in which they lose their self awareness and purpose - to become both an individual and a symbol. Sometimes this moment never comes, other times I miss it completely, and all too often I misinterpret their wilingness to drop their mask. Almost always they are not aware of my presense, and when they are, I hope to capture the essense before they have time to change.

But the biggest wonder takes place when the photograph of "reality" (I was there, after all), becomes this completely fictitious depiction that could not have been there, but for me is as real as I am.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 28 Jun 2010 07:40:00 GMT
Feminism and the Nude - Ayelet's Point of View
What does a feminist say about nude photographs? It depends.
Some time ago I posted a version of this photograph on a photography sharing site. A furious debate erupted with a claim I am humiliating all women (as one male photographer wrote). There were also positive comments, but they are not the subject of this post.
The debate went on for a couple of days, until the following was posted by a woman, Ayelet. She wrote (freely translated and published with her explicit permission):
"I want to say something I was afraid to say until now. This is meant mostly for Jay. When I first saw your photograph I was really angry, absolutely raving mad: How dare a man humiliate a woman in such a way??? I could not bring myself to comment because I was so mad.
A few days later I came back to read comments from others - and I was still very angry after looking at the photograph.
As time went by, I started to think about it some more. The anger started to subside, and then it hit me.
I suddenly understood I have been "damaged". Within the framework of this "Bullshit Feminism" we adopted, we did something very bad to ourselves. We, women, have only ourselves to blame.
We so wanted to be appreciated, to show the world that we are equals. In fact, that we are better! We started careers as women that have something to say.. But we also wanted to be seen. We became addicted to shopping, hair removal, make-up, cosmetics and more. But, in fact, we are "addicted" to another thing- to being a woman. And as a woman, nature gave us something we can't avoid - the mother instinct.  This cannot be ignored even if you are a passionate feminist that feels you are allowed to keep your body undamaged by childbirth, that you can prefer yourself over your kid, and that you are entitled to leave the house in a less than spotless state - even knowing your babies will crawl all over that filthy floor. Oh really?? No! It's not that you are not allowed - you just can't! This motherly instinct will always be there.

So what does it have to do with my anger? Everything! While the media is full of perfectly looking thin models on every corner and sign, you still need to give birth. You will be left with folds on our stomach and fat that does not want to go away. You will get up in the middle of the night to feed your baby. You will get up early to dress him and get him ready for the day. Then you will stop putting on makeup before work because you are late. You will stop going to the gym because you have two "jobs". You will not buy new clothes because now you prefer to spend the money on your kid. You will no longer feel sexy even for your husband (and here I start crying. Fuck you, Jay! What did you do???). And then you no longer spend the same energy at work like before and your boss will give the promotion to the guy that sits next to you because he can spend more time at work while you will be doing washing, cleaning and breast feeding.
What is left is to hope your husband will continue loving you in spite of all that – and what is more important, that you will continue to love yourself. But how?  Everywhere you look, everyone is promoting the thin look, shopping, beauty, body care. It is not bad - but what to do when it is impossible? You really try, but you can't!!
And this is where you enter, Jay. You reduce my anger (after all) but at the same time increase it hundred times more.  My anger towards you subsided and shifted towards the rest of the world. Towards the clothes makers, the cosmetics firms, the marketers, the photographers, the publishers, and mostly towards us - women: That we did not see this coming and then let ourselves into this trap from which we have a long and difficult path to get out.
So… thank you, dear feminists, that you made me angry while seeing a photo of a real woman with all her beauty and faults. Thank you so much!!"

That was what Ayelet wrote.
It is not often that I get a glimpse of what goes on inside a person's head when seeing a photograph of mine. I want to thank Ayelet for sharing and for letting me know I made a difference. Small as it may be.
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 23 Nov 2009 07:02:00 GMT
Man in Front of a Large Window
Someone in front of a large window. At the Musemum of Modern Art in New York. No words (except that this is the image on my "business card"
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 12 Oct 2009 15:10:00 GMT
The Street as a Reflection of the Soul I sometimes find myself roaming the streets, with my camera and a lot of spare time, seeking subjects that inretest me - and find nothing. Everything is bland, gray, mundane. All the interesting people are gone. This is when I ask myself what am I really looking for in street photography. And then there are times I cannot stop pressing the shutter, to the point of exhaustion. The pictures jump at me from every direction. Over there! A man sitting on a bench, thinking about something next to a mysterious reflection.. There - a women with red hair on the background of a rusty door, her eyes set on one spot on the horizon.. There! a woman in black walking briskly with her hands flying in all directions and her body leaning forward - looking at me exactly as I press the trigger.. Over there! a women lifting her dress and caressing her thigh unconcious of my gaze.. until it is too late.. Everything is interesting, the heart soars, the spirit is singing and the happiness is unbounded. These are the moments I know exactly why I photograph on the street.

How can this be? What makes the difference? Can it be that in the first case I just happen to be in boring places?.. Am I lucky, in the other case, to be with all the interesting people?

Today, after experiencing both cases, I am confident the answer is mostly inside me.

People in the street are interesting to me when I give myself the freedom to relate, really relate, to what is happening around me. This is not a forced connection.. It is something transcendent. A connection in which I feel light as a feather, almost gliding above the ground.. Not pushing the photograph. I am between worlds, I see but am not seen among all the special people aroung me, allowing myself to be exposed only that much, sufficiently for them to notice me, not enough for them to be changed. They are still inside themselves - these are the people I want to photograph at the time I want to photograph them.

The people are the same people, the camera is the same camera, surely the photographs, too, are the same?.. However, it is not so. On days in which I feel heavy, forced, forcing, the photographs are not good. I don't like them. On the light days, I like almost all of them.

My photographs are different when I am flying. I am sure the people photographed also feel differently when I are soaring, touching them ever so lightly. My photographs are then different, too.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 10 Aug 2009 02:13:00 GMT
Photographer or Artist?

What am I, a Photographer, an Artist, or both? (I will ignore, with your permission, the possibility of "neither"). In an attempt to simplify the analysis, I will define four points on a continuum.

These span from a "pure" photographer to a "pure" artist. From Photographer-Photographer (PP) to Artist-Artist (AA) through Photographer-Artist (PA) and Artist-Photographer (AP).

The epitome of a PP would be someone working for the National Geographic. Whether professional or amateur, the PP is most interested in making the perfect photograph. This would be distinguished by excellent technique, good colour, fantastic lighting, mastery of all the ways to make a really "wow" photograph. I believe 95% of all photographers fall into this category or wish to. Most online photography forums cater to this population (and financially speaking, this makes perfect sense).

The AA, at the the other extreme, is first and foremost someone wanting to express himself through Art. He may use the camera as a way to make studies or use it as part of the work. He does not define himself as a photographer at all.

With the PA and AP, things become more subtle.

The PA is in love with photography. In this respect, he may not be any different from the PP. I believe, however, that the PA is also interested in the philosophy of photography. In addition to the love of making photographs, he is constantly in awe about the nature of the photograph. He has read Barthes' "Camera Lucida" and is amazed with the uncanny meaning photographs give to life and death. He has also read Benjamin's views on photography. He constantly questions himself about the connection between photography and reality and is fascinated with all the questions that photography raises. The PA is also an Artist and has swallowed books on Art in an attempt to understand what it all means. He wants his Art to express himself using photography and nothing else (except text, maybe, which is a different topic). He believes photographs need to show more than what is there.

The AP on the other hand, is first and foremost an Artist, and only then a Photographer. He has probably studied in Art school before using a camera. He is less concerned with maintaining an indexical relationship between picture and reality. The photograph is primarily a tool for self expression, and he is more likely to experiment with other media in conjunction or instead of the camera. He could use photography without taking photographs via appropriation, he can use photography as a canvas on which to paint. He will define himself as an Artist.

So where am I on this continuum? It should be no surprise to the reader that I see myself today as a Photographer-Artist. I may find myself one day moving on to "the right", towards the AP, but one way or the other, I do not see myself abandoning the camera.

As a way of demonstrating this point, above is a photograph of mine that would probably fall into the definition of a "good photograph" that could have been taken by a PP. However, when a photograph is so "pretty", one can miss the main point. In fact, one can ask "is there a point beyond the obvious?" And then there is this photograph.. Also a spontaneous street photograph. Far less "aesthetic".. For me, it is a photograph I like much more, as it connects to those parts of the human condition I am most interested to explore.
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Barthes Philosophy artist photographer Sat, 01 Aug 2009 07:15:00 GMT
Nude as Mask I received an e-mail from a young woman one day. She was an aspiring nude model, interested in Art, had participated in a few nude sessions already, and thought it could be an interesting experience to work with me. About 30 minutes into the session, after I had photographed the transformation from a fully dressed young women to a nude model, she asked me what I wanted her to "do", how I wanted her to pose for me. She felt she was not "doing" anything to justify her role as model. I told her I am very satisfied with how it is going, and what she is "doing" already is exactly what I am looking for. She suddenly took on a very worried expression, and said: "You know, I have never ever been photographed without posing, and that worries me a lot. I really don't care if people know what I am - I am used to showing off my body, and I know it looks good. But I am scared people may get to know who I am, and then find out I have nothing inside me". That was a shocking thing to hear. I assured her I would not publish anything without her approval, and we continued the session. Before she left, she asked to look through all the photographs in the camera, and while doing so she exclaimed "Wow.. I see I can look good even when I am not posing!" A few weeks later, I received a letter from her telling me what a profound experience she had gone through, and that she had taken some life changing decisions based on it. That was the first time I realized, in such a concrete way, how much the "nude" can be a mask behind which to hide ones true self and how much more one can reveal when looking deeper than the skin.
(the person in the photo is not related to the above, except my conviction that she is not wearing a mask)
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Mon, 20 Apr 2009 05:15:00 GMT
My street photography: the penny is dropping In parallel to becoming totally immersed in what was initially my "Nude Photography", I also started to experience street photography. I have always been a "people watcher", so this was a natural interest for me and a way to experience photography outside the studio.

It became a side diversion that I could do while traveling on vacation and during snippets of time while on business travel. However, I was not clear on what it was I was doing, i.e. what is "my voice" when I photograph in the street? I recently had several people observe, within days of each other, that they see something special - something about "little moments" and making them big. Someone, to whom I will refer to as "H", had been quielty following my photographs for a long time.. And then, out of the blue, she wrote to me: "I suddenly realize what it is I like so much about your photographs.. There is nothing more intriguing than watching people; what they look like, what they wear, the way they go about their business, their expressions, and then make up the story of their life.. In your photographs you manage to capture these aspects of humanity in an amazing way, select the most interesting people, and it is so much fun to examine them and sail away in the imagination". I am sure many people think my street photography is "banal", with no "punch line". But it is to the few that appreciate the same little moments that are so interesting to me, that I dedicate my street photography.

[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Sun, 11 Jan 2009 10:30:00 GMT
What is the difference between "Nude" and "Naked"?

"Nude" is a way to see the body as an artistic object. "Naked" is to see the person. I am much more interested in nakedness - emotional as well as physical. When masks are removed.
And while we are discussing the subject - do you chose to wear your mask everywhere? Always? Are you prepared to strip completely naked even when you are alone?
Sometimes, being in front of a camera can be the opportunity to investigate these questions.
I use my photography to ask these questions of the people I photograph, and through them also discover things about myself.
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Wed, 24 Dec 2008 06:16:00 GMT
"Fine Art" Photography - is it the only Photography "Art" category?

I hear so much about "Fine Art" Photography. Seems to me it is typically black and white and tends to highlight (excuse the pun) lighting, "beauty" and, in general, "pleasing" pictures. Maybe this is what most people want. They can hang it in their living room. The Ansel Adams legacy.
I am not saying Art photography (or Photography art) cannot be "beautiful", or "pleasing" - but surely it is more than that? I read somewhere that Art is about asking questions and not answering them. I think this is a key concept. A photograph that is "what it is", as beautiful as it may be, can extract a "Wow" - but it cannot intrigue you.
I want Art to be intriguing - I want to wonder why I am interested in it, I want it to make me think.
I do love photography. I like the magic. Yet there are so many photographs that bore me to tears. I want so much more out of a photograph.. the "something else" that gives you a twitch in the stomach. This is why I don't like most photos of sunsets.
[email protected] (Jonathan Levy / Jay L) Wed, 24 Sep 2008 07:45:00 GMT