TEL AVIV.- Forty years have passed since that Yom Kippur day in 1973 when an alarm siren shattered the personal and social routines of life in Israel. In the midst of the rising shock and panic, the independent photographer Micha Bar-Am set off to document the war. Carrying several cameras, he headed south to the Sinai Peninsula, to the heart of the battles, and begins recording.
The Yom Kippur War shook Israeli society and its self-esteem, and its impact is still felt today. Four decades later, its different aspects are still being examined in Israeli discourse. Bar-Am now returns to his photography archive in order to present viewers with the possibility of reconnecting to that painful wound.
"Dividing Line" presents moments that were eternalized with the click of a shutter. Yet this is not a historical, chronological exhibition documenting the evolution of the war. The photographs are arranged to reflect associative and formal connections and to capture the experience of war. They reveal the original character of Bar-Am's work and his unique gaze.
Bar-Am stands behind the lens, yet his physical, stylistic, and professional presence is felt in every frame. Each photograph constitutes a statement in the first person: "I saw," "I was there." Bar-Am describes the photographic act as a physical reaction, an instantaneous perceptual and sensory action. His photographs fix the initial impressions experienced by his body, and captured by his camera on the battlefield.
Bar-Am was influenced by photo essayists such as Eugene Smith and Robert Capa, who photographed the horrors of war in real time and sought to distill thematically and visually complex situations in a single image.
Some of Bar-Am's photographs resonate with explosions, shouts, heated debates, and cries of lament, while others depict moments of silence, calm and grace or fear and dread. Bar-Am photographs the war up close, capturing every imaginable site and situation: bunkers, minefields, attacks, wounded fighters, a soldier falling in battle. They reflect the distinct temporal and emotional dimensions of wartime experience.
The aesthetic dimension of the photographs is highly prominent. Even when they capture pain and death, they bespeak a meticulous attention to light, form, and texture. Nevertheless, these photographs are not decontextualized; rather, they ask the viewer to reexamine the context in which they were taken. Bar-Am thus challenges us to actively investigate the images, and to engage with history while considering a range of ideological constructs. Many of Bar-Am's images have attained an iconic status in Israeli collective memory, while constituting a source of inspiration and engendering further discussion in the discourse on Israeli photography.
Although Bar-Am documents wartime events and military conflicts, his work always centers on individual human beings and on the universal, inherently human aspects of experience. His camera focuses on extreme, dramatic wartime states such as the one captured in The Falling Soldier, a photographic tribute to Robert Capa. Yet Bar-Am also portrays the desperate attempt to maintain a semblance of routine activities: shaving, napping, taking an improvised shower. In each and every photograph, he reveals the human moments concealed within the chaos of war: moments of warmth, compassion, pain, and lyricism.