Irina Rozovsky – One to Nothing

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Irina Rozovsky was born in Moscow and grew up in Boston. She received a BA in French and Spanish Literature from Tufts University and an MFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and teaches at the International Center of Photography. Her recent monograph, One to Nothing, was named as one of the best photo books of the year by Alec Soth and Photo-Eye Magazine.


In 1988, photographer Irina Rozovsky and her family were supposed to emigrate from the USSR to Israel, just like many other Jewish families at the time. But they never arrived. Instead, they settled in America, almost on a whim.

Rozovsky finally made it to Israel in 2008, and with that visit, she entered the realm of what-if that we all carry at the back of our throats. There, her photo book One to Nothing began unintentionally, as the orange and dusted country moved her to make more photographs in a single week than she had in the past two years combined.

To Rozovsky, Israel is the world’s “Achilles Heel”. It’s a place most of us watch on the news from our couches. We all make judgments, take sides, and harbor opinions that we don’t really have enough of a background to declare.

But in this stunning book, Israel is presented without its most prominent features. No Temple Mount, No Wailing Wall. She chooses instead to focus on the outskirts, the city lights setting the horizon on fire, a camel hiding its head so it appears to have two moot ends. The work is doused in a sense of tender neutrality, and it’s a viewpoint so rarely seen, yet so necessary for the region today.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, only a few feet behind where Jesus was said to be buried and resurrected, Rozovsky made a photo of a ladder, hanging slanted under a painting of Jesus, swaddled and bleeding. This photo, like much of One to Nothing, was an accident created during an erratic exploration of a dark storage space. Only when lit up by the flash could Rozovsky see the painting itself, and the ladder—not pointing upwards towards the heavens as they’re so often seen—but hanging useless on its side. It’s a subtlety made in the best taste, communicating the weight of the region with only the simplest details.

To Rozovsky, the work, and the title itself, is a score to an “existential battle” locked at 1-0, with no end in sight. It’s all about the contrast of myth and reality, and the disillusionment that happens when a land known for so much war and holiness is actually beneath your feet. It’s a guide on how to take a neutral stance out of pure empathy, an ode to Israel’s complicated history, and a study on Rozovsky’s past expanded outward, as she sees what could have been, and what was running in her blood all along.

Review by Taylor Kigar

Title : “One To Nothing”, 2011 *signed
Size : 8.5 x 8.5 in
Page Count : 64 Pages
Publisher : Kehrer Verlag
ISBN : 978-3868281996

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