# 5 GABI BEN-AVRAHAM, Tel Aviv Street Photographer
Social Media has enabled everyone to connect with others to share common interests. That’s how I have been able to see a lot of amazing photographs and ‘meet’ wonderful photographers. But as you know, there is no filter. Everything is game. What you get together with the good is quite a lot of bad. Two sides of the coin.
When Gabi’s photos popped into my news feed, I had discovered something special. I was immediately taken away by his empathy with humanity – in whatever form it came. He modestly says it’s looking for the surreal juxtaposition in life. There’s definitely more than just that.
Gabi is a quasi, self-taught photographer living in Israel. Quasi in that he took some courses in commentary and photojournalism as well as the 101 of digital photography. Like, how to use the menus, EV wheels, and so on. However, he never studied art, yet he has a great sense of composition and light in his photographs.
Most importantly, Gabi has an innate ability to capture the ‘joie de vivre’ of any situation. He has no hesitation to delve into the lives of strangers. Just look at how close he can get in someone’s face. He has a skill I envy. I’ve never seen him photograph but you see from the images he loves to share the lives of his subjects and deeply respects them.
Gabi’s work is not well known compared to the photographers whom I have interviewed so far. But his photographs always garner a lot of praise within the small loyal Facebook Group communities he belongs to, who eagerly await his posts. In my humble opinion, I hope this interview will bring the well deserved attention to his worthy work.
Nick Name: None that I know of.
Currently living in: Tel-Aviv, Israel
Motto: Try capturing the decisive moment that’s beyond reality.
Profession/Job: IT Manager
Street Photographer since: I use to photograph with a film camera during the 1980’s after I came out of the army. But then I didn’t touch a camera for 20 years until 2009, when my wife decided that I needed to get back to photography. She bought me a Nikon D90 and just like that, I returned to my old hobby in a very strong way.
Websites: www.gabibest.com and I also use Facebook to share my photos.
Organizations or Group: Street photography Facebook Groups
Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Body – Nikon D-700. Lens- most of the time I use Nikon 28 mm/2.8 mm prime lens and Nikon 20mm/2.8 mm prime lens
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Body – Nikon D-90, Lens Nikon 16-35 mm
Favorite photography gadget: None
Favorite street food: Meat sandwich and a pint of Guinness.
Do you listen to music while shooting? No, I prefer to hear the street sounds in order to complete the street feeling.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing photos: I love to listen to classical music, particularly Mahler, when I edit.
Favorite photo software: Adobe Lightroom 3.6
3 Favorite Master Photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raymond Depardon, Robert Capa
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Alex Webb, Bruce Gilden, Matt Stuart
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? None, but I own books such as: “A Year in Photography” by Magnum, “Street Photography Now” and “The Great LIFE Photographers”
Color or Black and White? I prefer B&W. I add color only when it’s meaningful.
Shoot Film or Digital? Digital. Because I believe in progress. Film is for nostalgic reasons and it expresses the connection to “classic” photography.
Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Because of the strong sunlight in Israel, I prefer the morning time or afternoon as the light is better and the shadows are longer.
Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I love taking photos of people in urban surroundings because there is always a story to capture. The street is not a studio. It has life. Things constantly change. Sometimes I stand and wait for things to converge – a cyclist, a dancer, a child – moving along. They are not aware that they are moving towards a certain object, but I am.
Street Photography is my favorite way of looking at the world. My camera has become an integral part of me and I cannot imagine myself without it. Everywhere I go I take it with me thinking ‘maybe today will be my lucky day and I will take the photo of my life’. I am constantly looking around me through the camera lens, searching for that ‘decisive’ moment that will never return – unless I catch it.
When pushing the button, I try to make some sense – restore order to the chaotic scheme of things in the composition. The components ‘speak’ with each other in a special dialogue, either by color, shape, or light. Capturing the elusive, special moment after which things will never be the same and making it eternal – that is my goal.
Forgotten, transparent people in urban surroundings are being granted their moment of grace. The shadows, fragile outlines, reflections of daily lives that are not noticed in the busy and thick urban landscape and sometimes are even crushed by it – these are precious to me. Those expressions, compositions – flickering like dim lights on the horizon – I treasure these before they are lost in time.
What motivates you to photograph the streets? The story behind the scene, the surrealism hiding amongst us.
Is Street Photography an escape or an obsession?
As I said, my wife was responsible for getting me back into photography. By the way, her name is Gaby too. I think she might regret it because on weekends, I am wandering the streets for up to 12 hours. It’s become an obsession: an excuse to meet people and the city. It fulfills me more than my regular routine job. I work 5 days a week, waiting all the time for the weekend, to get out and photograph.
Are you a loner or can you shoot with friends of a group? Loner.
Favorite street photography city: Tel-Aviv is my home field for street photography. I’ve lived here all my life. It’s a great city. We call it the “state of Tel-Aviv” because it has a lot of atmosphere and a lot of people. It’s a modern city of pleasure, contrary to what the world thinks of Israel. Everyone knows the Old City of Jerusalem. I also like this city very much because it is the junction of three religions. It’s excellent for street photojournalism.
As for abroad, I adore Paris – the classic city for street photography. I just got back from a trip to Havana. I shot so much I was exhausted when I returned to Tel-Aviv. In fact, every city offers its unique surrounding for street photography.
What inspires your photography, including any philosophy? Classical photography and my imagination. As for philosophy – I don’t ascribe to any.
What do you look for in a good photograph? I look for a combination of a good story, excellent composition, reciprocal relationships between the segments that create connection or contradiction. And of course wise usage of light, shadow and color if the photo is in color.
How do you go about shooting a street photograph?
I often choose the location by looking for the right light. I love to use shadows and reflections. I sometimes wait for 1/2 to 1 hour for something to occur. If you want something to happen, maybe the color of dress, or composition, or you are patient enough – it will happen.
When you compose, what are you looking for?
Take a look at the photograph with the ominous hand waving ‘no’ over smokers walking by (below). I stood there for a half hour and sure enough, it happened. In this case, I had the preconceived idea of stronger hand, teaching or telling something.
I also like high contrast. I use color especially when it has meaning. Sometimes I change the color to b & w. I often view in black and white.
Best 3 tips for shooting the streets:
1. Find the story behind the scene, using a wide lens.
2. Establish connection or contradiction between the objects to create a surrealistic impact.
3. Use light and color to strengthen composition and story.
Best single advice on how to improve your work: Be open to critique from people whose opinion you value. Do not fall in love with your own work. Learn to be cruel and selective when necessary.
Best single advice on how to edit your work: I object to heavy editing in the street photography genre. Or to making changes in photos. This is the reason why I don’t use Photoshop. Instead, I try to imitate the classical dark room methods by using “Lightroom” and edit only with parameters such as exposure, contrast and brightness.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Create your own style – personal signature and stick to it.
What’s the best moment in your street photography career? Until now I have not had any specific best moment. The best moment will hopefully be when I catch the photo of my life.
What’s the worst moment in your street photography career?
Sometimes, after a while, I cannot find any good photo within all the ones I’ve taken.
What projects are you working on? I made the “Social Protest” project with regard to the temporary tent city in Tel Aviv last summer. Currently, I am making a series on ceremonies, cult and religions all over Israel.
Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? I wish to achieve recognition and be one of the best!
Are there other exhibitions planned in the future? I have exhibited my work at several group exhibitions. But right now, I am busy preparing my next project about religions in Israel.
Leica Liker thanks Gabi for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. We look forward to checking in on him when he finishes his ‘Israel’s Religions’ project.
You can check out Gabi’s gear in Liker Bags’n Gear here.
This is Gabi’s self portrait.