Here I Am
Curator: Sarah Filler
10 September, 2011 — 5 July, 2012
Over the past year, Maayan Zari has invited young ultra-orthodox women of about her age into her studio where she photographs portraits of them. By photographing the woman in her studio, Maayan separates them from their usual cultural and social environment. Thus, she neutralizes the predicted links of distraction and by doing so, focuses on the woman themselves – their looks, features, appearance and body language. The use of a large format studio camera placed on a tripod enables a slow, extended view, revealing the fine details of her subjects’ exterior. Although this is Maayan’s main interest, her camera digs deeper and reveals much more.
The photographed women seem fascinated by the camera, yet at the same time one senses their hesitations and fears. They are willing to expose themselves yet they do not reveal all. Each of them is vulnerable, yet holds an underlying power in the knowledge that they themselves control the amount they wish to expose and the boundaries they are willing to cross.
Raised in a religious home herself, Maayan is sensitive to her models’ needs. She is aware of the conflict that some of them may encounter when dealing with self exposure and modesty. As a teenager Maayan faced these conflicts. She remembers feeling the need to express herself and create her own identity and at the same time wanting to remain orthodox, which demanded her acceptance and obedience of its rules.
Through the photography sessions and conversations in the studio, Maayan deals with questions concerning the danger of stretching and crossing boundaries. These questions are manifested in the tension that lies between what should be revealed and concealed – contrasting the desire to show and expose vs. the need to be secretive and modest. In the end, the women in Maayan’s portraits help her look into her own mirror of creativity and thereby composite a portrait of herself.