NEW YORK, NY.-
From its creation in 1948, Israel has felt isolated and under threat from enemies. This collective siege mentality manifests itself with over one million public and private bomb shelters, found on either side of the Green Line, throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli law stipulates that every citizen must have access to a shelter that can be sealed in case of an attack with unconventional weapons. In recent years, attempts have been made to give these shelters that are part of the country's visual vernacular a more "normalized" appearance reflecting modern Israeli identity.
Architecture of An Existential Threat (Edition Lammerhuber
, August 11, 2017) by American photographer Adam Reynolds is the first photo book to offer a broad cultural and geographical survey of bomb shelters in Israel today. From 2013 to 2015, Reynolds traveled the country to photograph these 'Doomsday Spaces' opening a window into the collective mindset of a country living under constant threat. His photographs reveal how the Israelis have creatively integrated these rooms into their everyday lives by transforming them into dance studios, school classrooms, community centers, bars, gyms, and places of worship.
Reynolds' photographs seek to straddle the distinct worlds of fine art and reportage in a country where it is impossible to separate art from social reality. The shelter project was born out of a trip to Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001 during the Second Intifada when Reynolds witnessed what was left of several buses blown up by suicide bombers. He writes "these charred remains, devoid of people, allowed me to enter that physical space and to insert myself mentally into its tragic reality. The idea of offering the viewer the empty space for personal reflection and contemplation became the initial goal for creating the bomb shelter images."
Reynolds approaches each interior with a careful and patient eye to the aesthetic composition of the space, in the historical tradition of architectural photography. He cites Richard Ross's Waiting for the End of the World that looks at the interiors of Cold War era shelters and Lucinda Devlin's The Omega Suites that examines execution chambers in the United States, as among the inspirations for his work. "With my series of images, I worked to divorce myself from my own views regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. My goal is for the architectural spaces, absent people, to communicate directly with the viewers and allow them to enter the spaces as they come to their own conclusions."
For many people in Israel who live with a personal history of exile and persecution, these ubiquitous shelters hidden in plain sight are the architecture of an existential threat -- both real and perceived. Reynolds photos reveal the efforts of the people in Israel to make these spaces, which guarantee survival in extreme situations, seem as 'normal' as possible. It is a fragile normalcy.
The book includes a preface by Danielle Spera, an Austrian journalist and writer, and the current director of the Jewish Museum Austria where an exhibition of Reynold's photographs from the book is on view until October 8, 2017. She writes about growing up "against a background of tales about bunkers and (air-raid) shelters. Most of them told by my father, who, because of his Jewish mother, had been categorized by the Nazis as a 'Mixed-blood of the 1st degree'. He was forced to help recover dead bodies after Allied air raids." She also describes a trip to Israel in January 1991 while working as a correspondent for ORF, Austria's National Service Public Broadcaster, when the country was "reeling from scud missile attacks out of Iraq in the Second Gulf War."
Adam Reynolds is a documentary photographer whose work focuses on contemporary political conflict with an emphasis on the Middle East. He pursues research projects that balance photographic creativity with a journalist's thematic fidelity. He holds a Masters of Fine Art degree in photography from Indiana University. He began his career covering the Middle East in 2007 as a freelance photojournalist. Adams holds undergraduate degrees in journalism and political science from Indiana University with a focus on photojournalism and Middle Eastern politics. He also holds a Masters degree in Islamic and Middle East Studies from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.