Pascal Haas “TEL-AVIVIS” – Book Review

The photography book TEL—AVIVIS shows Jewish and Arab Israelis on the beach of Tel Aviv. The portraits capture the urban hedonism of young men of different backgrounds, with a focus on their shared passion for body workout as part of a quest for normalcy in a complex region.

TEL—AVIVIS book cover

Book review by Dana Stirling |
Israel, although a very small country, very complicated, controversial and convoluted.

I myself was born and raised in Israel after my parents immigrated from London back in 1988. I was the first sibling to be born in the country so I was the “Tzabar” of the family ([Hebrew: צַבָּר‎, tzabar] is a nickname for any Jew born in the state of Israel). For me, Israel is both my home country and a foreign land at the same time – the duality of nationalities I was born with, which were the opposite of on another has created a void for me in my life.

However, this is not a story of my life, but a review of a photo book, but I think context to where I am writing from is important in this situation.

Israel is messy and complicated. The political tension, the religious conflict and the geographical war is overwhelming at times – for both locals and the outside world. This land, even if very small in scale, holds over 8 million people all from different backgrounds, languages, countries and beliefs. So, having said all that, we now have this photo book in front of us – Tel-Avivis by photographer Pascal Haas.

Image by Pascal Haas

In his book, Pascal has collected images of Arab and Jewish men on the beaches of Tel Aviv – a city that is known for its liberal free minded spirit. In a way Tel-Aviv is a safe space to explore, connect and be free with who you are as a person in this small bubble. Pascal created a book that celebrates these men, connects them and puts aside their differences in order to focus on some of their similarities.

The photographs in the book are almost fashion like portraits – where the beaming sun with ocean background on men who are good looking. These portraits stand in this interesting line between documentary and fashion which I think is what makes the book even stronger. This juxtaposition creates a way for the viewer to connect to these people based on first impression, but because of the context of their location and religious, brings back all we know about the political and geographical tension into play which makes the portraits more complex.  

One element of the book that I found to be interesting and also very important is how much emphasis is put on their names. Each portrait has the men’s names but in addition, the back cover has a list of names in beautiful silver embossed letters. A person’s name is the first and most important connection to one’s identity anyone has as an individual in this world. A name is your identity, and by highlighting it the photographer is giving them their full identity that photography can sometimes strip away. In addition, the list of names, that is written in Hebrew, connects us back to the country we are in. The connection to the local language and the complexity of that in itself.

For me, as an Israeli, it was interesting to see just how “alike” both sides really are. We have a tendency to put a border (no pun intended) between us yet many times we are more alike than not, and this book created this connection for me.

For people who are not as familiar with the culture of people per se, they can connect to these men on other levels and look at the need of these guys to look and act a certain way and carry themselves in front on the camera and the photographer.

Consider getting a copy of his book here

Image by Pascal Haas
Image by Pascal Haas

This post was originally created for the online photography platform Float Photo Magazine. Aint-Bad has partnered up with Float to share these articles with our community in the hopes of creating a dialogue and collaboration to highlight artists and writers from across the globe. 

Float Photo Magazine was founded in March 2014 and was created with the goal to share and celebrate the photographic work of a versatile roster of contemporary photographers from around the world. From young and emerging to established artists, Float features high quality and creative work with the intention to inspire and push forward the photo community. In addition to their growing online and social platform, Float curates themed online magazine issues where emerging artists and established artists share the pages to create a unique visual representation of the selected theme.

Float offers artists various opportunities and platforms for exposure – Instagram takeovers, book reviews, artist interviews, curated online magazine issues, online and physical exhibitions, and more. Float takes pride in collaborating with many other platforms to create a unique, open-minded and welcoming space for photographers. Since 2014 Float has collaborated with Littlefield Art Space to have their group exhibition ‘Space’ shown for several weeks, Subjectively Objective creating together photo publication ‘The Vernacular Of Landscape’ along with an exhibition of selected works at Usagi NY, a summer group show at Carrie Able Gallery in Brooklyn curated by Damien Anger, a collaboration with Casual Science on a printed publication with an enamel pin set, the first Rust Belt Biennial scheduled for September 2019 at the Sordoni Gallery Wilkes University, PA and now also the Aint-Bad platform to co-publish articles. 

Visit Float Photo Magazine by clicking here