The story behind the tissue
I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to annotate this project. Perhaps talking about my artistic background, my influences, my overview of the world? I found everything super tedious, heavy, self-serving and pretentious. So, I decided simply to talk about this project as it is; its history and people, and the love surrounding it and its creation until it ended up as this book - but mostly, to let the pictures do the talking.
As for my own part in this endeavour, I simply try to show my view of the world through working with my friends as my models. I find they understand me far better than paid professionals, who simply do their jobs and leave, forgetting what we did after they exit the studio, as it is simply a job for them. It is therefore also a personal journey for me and the people I photograph.
I moved from Ireland to Israel in 2009 after living there almost half a lifetime and was looking for an artistic outlet to ease my acceptance back into the Israeli society. I quickly realized that I was using my photography not only as my art, but also as a way to meet new people and make new friends, and to fill my soul, as the move was extremely difficult and lonely. One of the other things I discovered was; that tattoos were really "big" as a social statement in Israel, (in Ireland they were really just as common as drinking beer) so I started photographing tattooed people that I knew, and it quickly became "a thing". More and more people started showing up at my studio asking to pose for me, which was a lot of fun. Then it started becoming more than just photo sessions; it became personal for all of us and a meaningful activity.
I unofficially started this project around 2011 as a mere concept (it had no name yet), as I discovered that a lot of my friends were thrilled to pose for me in the studio and to try to create a unique view of Israeli society with me. So, from mid 2011 until late 2018 we ran with shooting different scenes based on our favorite painters and photographers, song lyrics, and sometimes random ideas that popped into our heads during our conversations about art and the human body. We experimented with many ideas on film, hoping we would get agreeable results and soon what had started as a personal experiment of shooting tattooed individuals, who happened to be my friends, had turned into a a social activity and volume of work that I call “The Human Tissue” - which eventually became the official title for the project.
The main idea, even before the project became a reality, was to break down all boundaries, to show all of us as simply who we are, and not to just do another “we are a bunch of tattooed naked people taking photos” project (as many others do). We all agreed that such an undertaking would be simply boring. What we did know though, was that as Israeli people, we live in a most diverse society, on the one hand, but still an extremely conservative and judging one on the other and we would probably get flogged in the public square for this if it went viral. So, for seven years we kept it a secret. We all agreed it should only come out as a book, an exhibition, and a dedicated website when the time was right.
We have every type of person in our little country – from any possible standpoint – race, colour, creed, faith, habits, and we all share the same fate, but we still cannot always seem to find the correct glue to gel us together. However, I discovered that when we talked about our tattoos – we simply didn't care about our differences and this is what I decided to show in my work. When the project started picking up traction and pace, I started calling in all my friends, and we posted calls for more people we knew on social media in our different groups to join us.
My friends started showing up with their friends, (even neighbours or work colleagues). I was fortunate that many of the friends old and new, who came to listen to my ideas, decided to share themselves with my camera because we all realized that in today’s fragmented reality, we needed something to define ourselves as what we really are – humans, rather than Israeli Jews, Christians, Muslims, vegans, meat eaters, lefties, right winged, anything on any spectrum. In addition to that – no upper age barriers were set – everyone over 18 could come along – and we started shooting group photos and individual looks.
Around late-2017 the work was almost done, and we ended up shooting the last group frames in mid-2018 after a short break while I began working on the publication efforts. The major bulk of the group concepts were already formed, and we had two distinctive groups that I worked with. Altogether there were 80 individual shoots and two main groups shoots of around 12-15 people each.
When I count the amount of people who took part in this project, I am astounded by how many amazing people I have in my life, even though with some I did not remain in contact as the years past. I can only say that I have been blessed and that I deeply love all of them.
Now at the end, if I wish to only try to "mark the spot" where I see this as a ground-breaking effort for myself and my friends (and maybe even for our society), I need only count the people who have participated in my little adventure. Amongst the people who worked with me, we have five former Orthodox Jews, one Muslim, five Christians and three members of the LGBTI community, an individual with Tourette syndrome, two cancer survivors, a person with borderline autism, a Hindu and a former refugee who converted to Judaism, five dancers, two lawyers, an insurance agent, three teachers, two chefs, a few students, four engineers, a shop owner, a paramedic, six active duty soldiers, a chemist, a gynecologist, a few musicians, two yoga instructors, mothers, fathers, two grandmothers, and a few couples. Altogether 80 individuals, who joined forces with me to try to create something amazing together, all unified by love of art and love for their fellow human beings. What more could I have asked for in life? Also considering all of them served a full term in the IDF, with no regards to their faiths, and with ages ranging from 18 to 60 - I truly see this as the epitome of who we are as the Israeli people.
So here it is - the "Human Tissue" project, spanning 7 years, encapsulated as best I could within this book.