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המכללה האקדמית בית ברל > English > About Us > News > Newsletter > January 2020 Newsletter > Prize-Winning Lecturer Turns His Lens on Marginalized Communities

Prize-Winning Lecturer Turns His Lens on Marginalized Communities

Beit Berl faculty member Ron Amir, renowned for his photography of Israel’s most disenfranchised populations, has received the Ministry of Culture’s prestigious Prize for Visual Arts for 2019.

Ron Amir’s journey as a socially conscious artist began in the early 2000s when he was a B.A. student at Beit Berl’s Faculty of Arts-Hamidrasha. Already then, he was fascinated with human interaction and exploring social issues. At the end of his third year of studies, he started photographing people in the Arab coastal town of Jisr az-Zarqa – one of the most disadvantaged communities in Israel. The strong connection he formed with the residents of Jisr az-Zarqa continued over the years, resulting in a photographic series that is extremely poignant and thought-provoking. 

Amir enjoys both teaching and creating, and he has intertwined art and education throughout his career. He has been on the faculty of Hamidrasha since 2006, and during the extended periods of time spent in Jisr az-Zarqa, it was important for him to be involved with the community through educational projects as well as through his art. He established photography classes for 10th graders in the town and at the end of each course, Hamidrasha’s photography gallery hosted a final exhibit of the participants’ work.  

“I’m interested in projects that have a social angle,” Ron Amir attests, adding that, “In my point of view, awareness of marginalized communities is important for understanding Israel’s DNA.” Communities that have been the target of his lens include Palestinian construction workers from the West Bank who work in Israel illegally, African refugees being held in the Holot detention center, new immigrants and Israeli Arabs. “My photography explores the way these communities deal with the boundaries they encounter within the system,” he explains. His shots are partially staged, and he typically spends months with a given community, getting to know them and gaining their trust, before he starts taking pictures. “The ideas often come from my subjects. They show me hidden places. People react to my presence in their territory, since I use large cameras and tend to attract a great deal of attention. My work is the antithesis of journalistic photography,” he notes.

Amir’s photography has been displayed in top galleries and museums in Israel and abroad. His work tends to provoke a range of reactions – from incredulity and surprise to outrage and shock. “I try to awaken a critical discussion about this place [Israel] and its complexity. I succeed if I make people stop for a minute and think about the country where they live.” 

Ron Amir has rightfully received numerous awards for his art, including the prestigious Landau Fund Prize for Arts and Sciences and now the 2019 Ministry of Culture Prize for Visual Arts. At the same time, he continues to be dedicated to teaching at Hamidrasha, where he teaches photography and leads a preparatory and outreach program for young Arab artists. “I like to teach. Lately I teach about where we live, and I learn a lot from my students.”  

For more about Ron Amir’s work, click here. For more about Beit Berl’s Faculty of Arts-Hamidrasha, click here.

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