Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Avenue
January 6 - January 30
“Eighteen,” 2010, is Israeli photographer Natan Dvir’s most recent documentary series, in which he explores the domestic lives of several eighteen-year-old Arabs—and by extension their families—who live within Israeli borders. Dvir conceived of “Eighteen” as a means of connecting with some of Israel’s most alienated minorities; Muslim, Christian, and Bedouin Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, and they endure religious and ethnic discrimination. Having been raised to view his Arab neighbors as enemies, Dvir hoped that “Eighteen” would allow him to have authentic experiences with the teens he encountered, and offer viewers a glimpse into their lives.
The large color photographs are divided into formal portraits and images of daily life, such as a daughter serving her father tea. While the quotidian scenes are poignant and relatively universal, it is the individualized portraits of teenagers in their homes—in particular their bedrooms—that best reveal their lives and, most important, the awkwardness and voyeurism inherent in the project. Most of the teens are positioned among the personal, religious, and cultural objects that most meaningfully represent their values and aspirations. And yet they stand stiffly in the center of the frame, circumspectly eyeing the camera. The young men, in particular, appear ambivalent at best about the terms of their representation; many of their expressions evidence a smoldering disdain. These photographs bear the unmistakable mark of the economic and cultural inequalities that are at the core of Israeli society. Much to Dvir’s credit, “Eighteen” actually seems to tell us something about the lives of these young Israeli Arabs whom we will likely never see again.