Belinda Kochanowska interviews Nir Arieli.
Nir Arieli launched his career as a military photographer for the Israeli magazine Bamachane, before studying at New York’s School of Visual Arts. His photographic passion is within the portraiture and dance fields. His work has been published in the USA, Germany, Spain and Israel, and his New York clients include the Juilliard School, The Alvin Ailey school, Pontus Lidberg Dance, Company XIV, The People Movers Dance Company and the Lunge Dance Collective, among others. Arieli is represented in NYC by Daniel Cooney Fine Art gallery and in North Carolina by MoNA gallery.
What drew you to photography, and what made you decide to pursue it as an artform?
I was drawn to art making from a young age, the fast learning curve that digital photography enabled won me over. Today I understand that photography grants me access to people. It’s a type of social interacting that I’m not able to do by myself. It gives me great power and opportunity to have an intimate moment with a stranger. We live in an age of instant satisfaction and photography create instant intimacy that expires once the session is over, I find it quite beautiful and very satisfying to share this private moment with so many strangers.
Nir Arieli ‘Spencer’ 2012
How do you think studying at New York’s School of Visual Arts, one of the top US art schools for photography, has impacted your career as an artist?
The school was an immersive experience for me, I practically lived there. I was very committed, and felt supported by the faculty and the head of the BFA department, Stephen Frailey. The school experience allowed me to focus just on what I’m really interested in, not being affected by the demand of a client or the market. In four years I’ve slowly built a network in both the photo and the dance communities. Prior to coming to the US, I was a photographer for the IDF (Israeli defense forces) so I came pretty technically savvy, but I wanted to become versed in the language of contemporary photography. In these four years I simplified my approach to light and composition and deepened my relationship with content. Before school I was blinded by the allure of large scale productions of staged photography but during my education my interest evolved to a much simpler esthetic. I’m working exclusively with natural light in an intimate setting, one on one with my subject.
What motivated you to do the series ‘Inframen’?
I was nominated for the Tierney fellowship and I had to propose a new project just before graduating. I didn’t have time to do the usual visual and practical investigation that leads to a new project, so I started working on images that I had in my archive. It was clear to me that I wanted to continue my investigation with male dancers and it was a natural next step to my last project “Tension” that focused on movement. In “Inframen” I wanted to step away from motion and create something more personal about these people. I wanted to look at them as individuals and not performers. The infrared technique was always something I wanted to work with. Its effect is not flattering and I loved the challenge of making something beautiful with it. Seeing under the skin made sense especially with the abused bodies of the dancers. For me it was one level higher on the intimacy scale, stripping someone from their cloths, then their skin.
Nir Arieli ‘Taner’ 2012
How much collaboration form part of your process in photographing dancers?
A lot. I learned that performing in front of the camera gives the dancers a similar cathartic experience to the one they get on stage. When we work together I often give directions in a very abstract way. The well trained dancers I work with are intellectually capable to translate, create, and find their own personality within the prompt. They are devoted to the process not just physically but mentally. Contemporary dance is less about narrative and physical perfectness and more about ideas and feelings, this is the arena I want to work in.
What is your next project?
My next project is still in its infancy. This time I want to get out of the studio into the public space, while preserving the intimacy of my studio work. I’m experimenting with a kind of light I’ve been noticing for years around the city. The street will be the stage of this project. I can’t say too much since It’s still in the works and there’s a lot of room for it to grow and change.
What words of advise do you have for emerging photographic artists?
I still consider myself an emerging artist and I’m still trying to figure out the answer for myself. The way I grow as an artist is to keep busy all the time, and expand my understanding of my subject (dance) and the community I’m working with (dancers and choreographers).
For more information on Nir Arieli, please visit his website.
The QCP International Bridging Program showcases the work of international photomedia artists on the video screen at the entrance of the QCP gallery. The program aims to foster connections between the international art community and the QCP, presenting work produced by successful international photo media artists to curators, academics, students, the viewing public and Australian artists.
Belinda Kochanowska is the program manager of the QCP Bridging Programs, and an emerging artist based in Brisbane.