Tag Archives: film

Trailer for Land of the Little People

The words “trailer”, “festival” and “screening” are definitely good signs — the completion of my feature film project “Land of the Little People”. With more than 7 years in the making, I can’t even start to explain my excitement, which is enormous. So, here it is, the trailer for Land of the Little People:

 

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http://www.landofthelittlepeople.com


Geppetto from South Tel-Aviv

Anton 18-s

A year ago, while filming a movie at the Neve-Tzedek quarter in south Tel-Aviv, I “accidentally” picked through one of the house’s window. I know it’s not a very polite thing to do, but the next thing I did was even ruder: I knocked on the window and asked the interesting looking man inside the room if I could possibly take his picture. The man raised his head from the thing he was doing and luckily agreed. That was my first encounter with Anton Avramov. “What are you doing?” I asked him with growing curiosity, and he pointed his finger toward the hangers hanging over his head and said: “I create figures from metal wire”.

The Artist-s

After that coincidental meeting I couldn’t just leave things for chance and scheduled a meeting with Anton where I was going to document him during his work. When we met again, Anton wanted to sculpture a whole band of musicians. He arranged his working tools on the floor of the workshop’s yard and started working with an amazing pace. While I was filming him working, the little figures started to round on the table: A pianist, a trumpeter, a drummer, a harmonica player and a guitarist. “How did you come up with working with a metal wire?” I’ve asked him, amazed. Anton kept his fingers working and told me his story.

Anton 14-s

Anton grew up in Bulgaria, and as a little child he liked playing at his uncle yard. He was especially drawn to the copper wires his uncle stacked at the back of the shed, but it was out of his reach, and his uncle forbade him from touching the material since it was very expensive. In 2002 Anton immigrated to Israel and lived in Kibbutz Ein-Hashofet. As a youth Anton worked at the Kibbutz factory where they manufactured chokes for light bulbs. Anton was very happy to discover that chokes are made from copper wires. The turning point was when his boss gave him a pliers as a present, and he started to play with the desired material. But the pliers had no cutter in it, so Anton had to work with the wire without cutting it. “I can’t really say, it’s very natural for me” Anton told me, “When I see objects I imagine them as one continuous line”.

Anton 4-s

Anton discovered his art by chance, after looking for it in architecture and acting studies. From the acting he probably got his unique and dramatic appearance and his love for inventing characters. Since he began sculpturing with metal wire he made a large variety of artifacts: little delicate figures, portraits and even gigantic objects made with vice, welder and metal chain cutter.

Anton finished his band of musicians and set them on the table. Suddenly, it seemed as if they were coming to life and started playing music. You are welcome to watch the clip and judge for yourself:

Video: Yaniv Berman

Artist: Anton Avramov

Music: Old Fish Jazz Band


Land of the Little People

Land Banner 2

 

‘Land of the Little People’ is a work in progress project about four young kids who live in a village of professional soldiers. Not so far away, in the wild fields that surround the village, there is an old abandoned army base. The kids build their stronghold in one of the only standing structures in the camp – a stone shed with an ancient dry well inside. When a war breaks out the fathers go to war and the mothers sit in front of the television and listen to the never-ending news reports.  The kids, with no one to supervise them, go back to their camp. To their amazement, they find two soldiers, who deserted their units, hiding in the secret shed. The kids decide to do whatever they can in order to make the soldiers go away. In their struggle, they use all means necessary known to them.

You are welcome to visit the project web-site and blog at: http://www.landofthelittlepeople.com


My Photographic Time Tunnel – About Leica and Serial Numbers

It was and it’s still is a dream to hold a Leica camera in your hands and use it as a tool for taking pictures. Ever since I’ve started my Photographic Time Tunnel journey I was hearing about Leica cameras, held by legendary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andreas Feninger and even the Israelis Alex Levac and David Rubinger. One story that captivated my imagination was about a Leica without a serial number. I’ve heard it from Aaron Gurevich, a camera collector I once met, who knew the owner of that unique Leica. The story, that sounds much like an urban legend, is about a Jewish war survivor who lived in Germany after WWII and was treated at the Red Cross hospital near Wetzlar. As a patient who was enjoying the benefits of the Red Cross health care, he was given a weekly amount of cigarettes packages. I believe that in those days they knew less about the negative effects of smoking, so this guy could enjoy the positive effect while relaxing on his balcony. Getting cigarettes in those post-war days was a very difficult thing, so one of his neighbors who had a hard time living without smoking, made a deal with him: The neighbor will receive one package of cigarettes a week, and in return he will give that Jewish patient a part of a camera, that he will steal from the factory where he was working. Luckily for the both of them, the patient didn’t need so much cigarettes and he thought that a camera could be a cool thing to have, so he agreed to go forward with his neighbor’s deal. And so the weeks passed, when one could smoke again, and the other collected camera parts. After a few months the neighbor requested a double package of cigarettes and in return he delivered the outer shell of the camera – the body. At the following weekend, with all the camera parts in hand, the neighbor sat and assembled the camera, exactly as he was doing at the factory. The camera was a Leica, and since it didn’t leave the factory doors as a product, it didn’t held a serial number. Many years has passed and the Jew left Germany and moved to Israel. By the late 70th he sold the camera to a photographer and camera collector by the name of Ezriel Kalman.

When I’ve heard that story I set a goal to meet Ezriel and get to the bottom of the tale. Ezriel Kalman has a little camera shop at King George Street in Tel-Aviv. I knew this place with its little display window, stuffed with old cameras, but it was always closed. I assumed it was one of those places frozen in time, waiting for some legal lawsuit to be settled between the children of the owner (I know a camera shop up in Herzliyya Main Street, which stands like that for the last 12 years. I even called one of the children so he might let me peek inside this time capsule, but he didn’t even want to hear what I had to say). Anyhow, I was informed by the friend who told me the story of the numberless Leica that the shop is not abandoned, and if I want to meet Ezriel I better visit the place early in the day.

I met Ezriel sitting in front of his shop, talking with the elderly by passers. He maintains a special corner with bowl of water for the dogs, which he loves dearly and has an informal dialog with. To my surprise it didn’t take long into our conversation, until he voluntarily told me the story of the numberless Leica, with some minor changes from what I originally heard. You know how those stories change from one teller to another, until you hardly recognize the specific details. But the story still contained a Leica and it didn’t have a serial number on it. I told Ezriel that I would love to see that special camera and try to make it work for my article, but he firmly said that he won’t take it out of the safe and that he is afraid that the people at the Leica Company will hunt him down for it. I was a little bit disappointed, although the whole time I suspected the story was too good to be true. Ezriel noticed the disappointment in my eyes, and said he has a better Leica to show me. How could it be any better? Well, it was his father’s Leica, which he bought in Bucharest at early 20’s. Actually, I prefer to see and renew a camera that served a few generations of the same family. We scheduled a meeting for the next week, so Ezriel will have time to dig some photos his Leica produced back then in the 30’s and 40’s. That gave me enough time to do some research about Leica – the Rolls Royce of cameras.

Well, Rolls Royce might be the wrong equivalent, since the story of the Leica is really the story of how film cameras became smaller and easier to use. Leica is actually all about being more compact and accessible (If you’ve got the money to buy it). It all started with an optical engineer by the name of Oskar Barnack, who worked at the Ernst Leitz Company. Oskar loved photography, and the story says that he suffered from asthma and had difficulties carrying all the heavy photography equipment to shoot outside, so he was experimenting with minimizing the camera equipment and film. In those days, I mean 1911, everything was huge (Equipment and the size of film), so making it smaller was an essential part in evolution. Oskar Barnack wanted to utilize the standard 35mm film used by Edison and the Lumiere brothers for the movies industry, and instead of using it vertically as in fast running film cameras for the moving pictures, he placed it horizontally in the stills camera, making a frame of 24x36mm picture size negative.

It took Oskar many years and some prototypes until the company authorized the manufacture of his first 35mm camera, and in 1925 the first batch of cameras where commercially available to the public. Ernst Leitz Company called them Leica, which is taken from the words Leitz Camera. The small camera was a great success – so small in size, it was all that Oskar Barnack meant it to be – a camera you could take with you outdoors and take pictures while having fun. Today we are used to small size cameras combined even in our cellphones, enabling us to snap as much as we want, but back in 1925, a camera so small was a great invention and the beginning of a new era in photography. An American advertising poster from those years showed that the Leica fits inside the shirt pocket, and announced that this is the “Camera of the Future”.

“Leica II” that came in 1932 was another leap into the future, with the extraordinary Rangefinder mechanism incorporated into the camera. That made the Leica even better, making it easy to focus the lens on the subject. Today we take things like comfortable camera size and easily to achieve focus for granted, but in the early 30’s of the 20th century, these innovations where truly a great leap. With these new tools in the market, a new generation of photographers emerged with the art of Journalism and Street Photography.

I didn’t know what kind of Leica Ezriel’s father bought in Bucharest, but after getting all this information on the history of Leica, I was ready for a surprise. Any Leica camera could have been a treat, but when Ezriel unfolded the camera from her warn leather cover I couldn’t be more amazed. Not only was it a “Leica I” model, the serial number engraved into the metal body of the camera showed a three letters number: 671, which means this camera was from the very first batch of 870 Leica cameras made in 1925. “Is it still working?” I’ve asked Ezriel with a slight thrill in my voice. “Yes” he said, a little surprised by the question, “Like always”.

 (Ezriel Kalman’s Leica I with serial number 671)

I was eager to try the camera out, but Ezriel seemed reluctant to let the camera out of his hands. In the process of gaining his trust I questioned Ezriel about the history of his camera. Ezriel was born in a little village in Romania called Hârlău (in Moldova) where his father owned a successful photo studio. In those days the custom was to attend the studio and have your whole family engraved on photo paper by a professional man. Ezriel’s father that always thought about new ways to expand his business, heard about the new German invention called “Kleines Bild Film” which means “Film for small pictures”, and took a trip to Bucharest where he had a chance to purchase the magnificent Leica. The idea was simple: on the weekends Ezriel’s father took the Leica to the center of the village where people used to hang, and he photographed them at the street or at the park. Since film could only be developed much later at the studio, each potential client received a card inviting him to come and buy his photo. This line of business was very successful, and soon enough, Ezriel helped his father on the weekends and holydays taking the “Street Photos” himself. The Second World War came, and the Jews of Hârlău had hard time making a living. Ezriel couldn’t go to school, so his father decided to educate him with his own profession. After his father death in the early 60’s, Ezriel left Moldova and came to Israel, where he opened a photo studio. Though he didn’t use the old Leica anymore, it still has an honorable place in his ever growing old cameras collection.

(A photo of a family in Hârlău)

(Two lovers on a bridge)

(Ezriel in work with the Leica)

In recent years, long retired Ezriel Kalman enjoys coming to his little shop every day and occupy himself with buying and trading cameras for his collection. In the few hours I stayed with him in front on his shop on King George Street, only one woman stopped to ask if he is interested in buying her father’s old Rolleiflex. Many other people came to chat with Ezriel on topics ranging from politics to the Olympic Games, or have their dogs enjoy some cool refreshments. I guess it is a great way to pass the time when you’re retired…

It was almost noon and Ezriel finally realized that the only way he could get rid of me was if he would let me load his camera with film and have a little fun with it. I had an idea, why not recreate the old days of street photography and take photos of by passers as if they are potential clients and would come later to acquire their photo. Ezriel, now a little bit tired, agreed to play along, and as in happened, he even enjoyed it.

(Ezriel Kalman with his Leica today)

Loading the “Leica I” with regular 35mm film turned to be more problematic then I anticipated. In this early version of Leica you have to remove the lower cover of the body and insert the film to the exact location behind the shutter. Though Ezriel camera was a German Leica that could stand the wrath of time, it still had 87 years behind it, and thus rejected our efforts in loading the film. Ezriel had an Idea. He unscrewed the lens and helped the film to its place by shoving it while the shutter was open (The camera has a Z option for having the shutter constantly open). While the lens was out, I had time to check it out, and realize the condition of it. The lens is a 50mm f/3.5 Leitz Elmar made especially for the Leica by Professor Max Berek, who adapted the Cooke triplet photographic lens patent (From 1893) that managed to eliminate most of the distortions (at the outer edge) lenses of the time had suffered from. The lens had no coating (that was applied to commercially sold lenses only after WWII), and since it hasn’t been cleaned for at least 50 years it was very foggy and had some ugly spots on it. Either way I was happy to see what it has in store for us. Nowadays people use all sorts of different filters to make photos look like they were made 50 or 100 years ago (we all do it on Instagram), so why not having the real deal?!

(Leitz Elmar 50mm Lens)

After succeeding with film loading, Ezriel suggested that we adjust the aperture to f/9 and the shutter speed to 1/200. We took turns with the camera and placed our faith on the good nature of the Tel-Avivians crowd. It wasn’t easy, since people today tend to take a better care of their privacy, but some easy going spirits donated their bodies for the sake of old time analog photography. As always, I’m using modern Fuji color film, in contrast to the old camera. Here are some photos that came out from the Leica’s belly:

 (Ezriel neighbor at King George Street – The optic store)

I wish I could have more time with Ezriel Leica. Running along with a camera like that could lead to great adventures. But what can I do?! This Leica, with that unique serial number, belongs inside a safe or a museum. I really should learn how to settle with my father’s old Yashica and the DSLR Canon… They are not royalty equipment, but as Ezriel said to me when we just met, it’s not the camera that makes the photo, but the men who pushes her buttons. He is right of course. Cameras are just tools… But we humans need inspiration. And challenge. What will be the next challenge for me now, after writing about a first model Leica? Who knows…? If you have any ideas I would be most grateful if you write to me: berman.yaniv@gmail.com

Thanks:

Ezriel Kalman, Aaron Gurevich, Amir Kriezberg and the people of Tel-Aviv who agreed to model for this article.

You are welcome to watch Leica I on Youtube:

Leica I on Facebook

The article in Hebrew on YNET

Full gallery of photos:


The Alpha Diaries

On April 2002 I started my photographic journey with Alpha company. The holiday just began and we all had our plans for the free days to come. But after a shocking terrorist attack on Passover eve, the government issued a special order to recruit the reserve units and send them into the Palestinians towns. The military operation was called “Defensive Shield”. My regiment was sent into Bethlehem, where we fought for three weeks. When I had my first chance to take the camera with me I started filming our actions, and I kept doing it for 5 years.

In 2007 I took all the stock of footage and made it into a documentary called “The Alpha Diaries”. This documentary was shown on television channels all over the world, and participated in many film festivals. Now I made a new HD copy of the movie and placed it on YouTube for everybody to watch and to experience how it is to leave everything and become a soldier for one month, every year.

Credits:

Producer: Avi Kleinberger

Director: Yaniv Berman

Editor: Ronit Porat, Gabi Shihor

On-Line: Serg Bezrukoff

Music: Gad Emile Zeitune

Camera: Yaniv Berman

Stills and more video footage: Omri Takoa

Sound Design: Michael Goorevich

 


Haunted Houses – “Magen” Factory at Derech HaShalom

“Magen” Factory was built by the Israel Military Industry in Tel-Aviv at 1950. The factory manufactured weapons as the “Uzi” machine gun and the “Galil” rifle, up unit 1996. During that process a lot of chemical waste was buried in the ground. At 1997 the first signs of the terrible neglect has surfaced, when a ground test results has shown that the whole area is heavily contaminated with dangerous metals and chemicals. The ground water was also contaminated and at least 25 wells had to be closed down.

It took another 15 long years for the government to dig out the contaminated soil and transport it to a special chemical waste facility. But now the damage was too great, and 10 kilometer square of underground water was infected. All the development plans for the area had to be postponed until better results would be found.

The only people that enjoy the current status-qua are a few graffiti artists that turned the empty factory into their own art gallery. Brave urban explorers who ventures into the area can now enjoy 4 floors of the finest graffiti art of disturbing images about destruction and human evil.

Camera and editor: Yaniv Berman

Music: Bernard Herrmann

“Magen” Factory on XNet


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Voigtländer Brillant

During the worst of Second World War, Nahum Valach escaped, together with his twin brother and father from the Polish city of Lodz that was captured by the German army. Just before reaching the border, Kalman, Nahum’s brother, decided to go back to Lodz to bring his girlfriend. On their way back to regroup they were caught by a border patrol that separated them and sent them to prison in Kazakhstan. Kalman and his girlfriend never met again. When reaching safety in Russia, Nahum and his father were sent to Komi ASSR and assigned to hard manual labor. Nahum’s father couldn’t survive the impossible cold winter and died from an illness. After a period of working in the woods, Nahum was sent to work in his field of expertise – accounting. His supervisor at the factory was a beautiful Russian woman called Raya. The two got to know each other and eventually got married. When the war ended they decided it was better for them to escape communist Russia. They bundled their two years old child Lea, and sneaked through the western border. They traveled all the way to central Europe, and by 1947 they’ve reached Munich and decided to settle there for awhile. Nahum worked for a Zionist organization for two years, and by 1949 the family finally decided it was best for them to go to Israel. In Israel Nahum was finally reunited with his twin brother Kalman and his sister Tola. Both of his parents didn’t make it through the war.

(Pictures of Lea and her parents taken with the Voigtländer Brillant in Munich)

Among the few things Nahum took with him from Germany was his Voigtländer Brillant camera. At the early 50th Nahum still used the camera, taking pictures of his growing family. When he and his family settled down, Nahum decided to get rid of all of his German’s possessions.  He didn’t want anything to do with the country that was responsible for his parent’s death. But somehow the Voigtländer stayed in its place, hidden inside the closet. More than 60 years later, Lea, Nahum’s daughter, found the camera stored at the cellar of her house in Herzliyya. Fortunately she decided to give me a call and let me try it out.

(Lea in Israel at the early 50th)

When I first took the Voigtländer in my hands I was very surprised how this 67 years old camera still looks so fresh. After a closer examination I realized the body of the camera is made from Bakelite, which is the first plastic substance that was developed at 1907. As opposed to the body of the camera, the shutter didn’t work properly and the lens was foggy. I took it as an opportunity to visit my friend Doron, who fixed Soskin’s Rollieflex for me. This time it didn’t take much to convince Doron to work the camera. Doron took the little parts apart and cleaned the taking lens and the viewfinder glass and lens. The shutter mechanism was in a bad condition, and I asked him not to dismantle it, in fear it will be ruined. After some adjustments it was permanently set for 1/75. With a maximum aperture of f/7.7 this camera could be used only in full day light.

(Doron fixing and cleaning the Voigtländer Brillant)

Before loading the camera with 120 film, I did a short research about Voigtländer. I was very surprised to reveal that Voigtländer Company was founded in Vienna in 1756! The founder was Johann Christoph Voigtländer who built it originally as an optical company. During the years the company success with camera lenses pushed it forward into making cameras. Voigtländer great achievements were the first all-metal camera in 1849, the first zoom lens (36-82/2.8) in 1960, and the first compact camera with built-in electronic flash in 1965. In 1956 Voigtländer was bought by the Carl Zeiss Foundation, and in 1966 it was sold to Rollei. The brand name Voigtländer is still active, and today it’s owned by Ringfoto, what makes it the oldest name in the cameras industry.

Though making many groundbreaking photographic products, the Voigtländer Brillant is not such a surprise. It resembles a TLR (Twin-lens reflex) camera, but it is just a box camera with non-identical twin lens that serves as a viewfinder. That means you can watch the view through the viewfinder nice “Brillant finder” but you have to do the distance measuring by yourself, and then set the focus of the 75mm taking lens. The Voigtländer Brillant was first introduced in 1932 and went through a series of changes through the years. Nahum bought his Voigtländer Brillant at around 1947, and with some of his camera specifics I can relate it to the V6 series.

(A look through the “Brillant” bright Viewfinder)

Soon after I loaned Nahum’s Voigtländer Brillant I had to go for my annual reserve training. This year it fell on February, probably the coldest month in the year, especially at the area of the Negev desert. Though I really didn’t want to go, the idea of taking the Voigtländer Brillant for a shootout, gave the ordeal a whole new perspective. On the field it turned out to be just an extra weight, having to carry the heavy camera on my back without knowing if it works properly.

Seeing the results I’ve got from the Voigtländer Brillant, it gave me the feeling that I jumped forward in time and the photos I took only a week ago at the desert are at least 30 years ago. I’ve got a similar feeling when looking at the old photos Lea’s father took in Munich at the late 40th, only with the black and white photos the time span is indeed very long.  Once again I was reminded how cameras and photos play with our mind and memories. Lea’s father Nahum died in 1991 but her mother Raya is here with us, and very much alive. Reviving the old Voigtländer Brillant brought back some stories and memories. Old photos were scanned and narratives were re-told and re-written. Though we live the moment only one time, that moment could leave a ghost behind. These stories are about those ghosts.

Voigtlander Brillant on Youtube:

Voigtlander Brillant Facebook Page

The Hebrew version on YNET

The full Gallery of old and new:


Haunted Houses – 57 Jabotinsky Street – Chapter 2 – Destruction

After 74 years the Rama Theater, sitting on 57 Jabotinsky Street, is being torn down. In the next months a 22-story high-rise will erupt from under the rubble and only a sad looking wall of shame will remind us of the place it once was. The rain is falling, the walls are crying and the memories are slowly washed down and are seeping into the filthy ground, where the Rama Theater is buried, deep inside the decaying history of a city that wants to forget. May our regrets rest in peace…

Camera and editor: Yaniv Berman

Music: Le Orme

57 Jabotinsky Street – Part 1


My Photographic Time Tunnel – Rolleiflex Original Standard

I was making a video about the exhibition of the pioneer photographer Avraham Soskin, when I saw it for the first time. She was hiding under hard glass, protected from the touch of human hands. It was out of reach – a museum artifact. It was Avraham Soskin’s old Rolleiflex.

About a month later I met Rani Soskin (the grandchild of Avraham Soskin) in the museum, and he asked me to send him a copy of the video I made. Only when I received a mail from him saying that he liked the article, I got bold enough to ask if I can try to take some photos with his grandfather’s camera. To my surprise he thought it was a good idea, and we scheduled a meeting.

The Herzlilenblum museum for banking and Tel-Aviv nostalgia was established by the Israeli Discount Bank in a restored building on Neve Tzedek Quarters. Since I work with the bank for many years, I have close relations with the museum manager (Yudith Ben Levy) and curator (Irit Fenig). When I asked for their help they gave me complete access to the show rooms. In fact, they were very excited to see if this old camera could come back to life.

Before the meeting with Rani Soskin I had my doubts. Avraham Soskin traveled from Russia to Palestine in 1896 and opened his first studio in Jaffa. When Tel-Aviv was founded in 1909 he moved to the New Hebrew town, where he worked for more than 50 years, taking thousands photos of the city he loved. My guess was that he bought the Rolleiflex in the early 40th, for shooting outside the studio. Soskin died in 1961, and left his belongings to his grandson, Rani, who never used it again. So this Rolleiflex hasn’t been in use for 50 years! It was a solid guess that the camera doesn’t work.

(Photos Soskin took in the early years of the 20th century)

Working or not, I had to fight my way to revive the camera. I held my breath while Irit Fenig, the curator of the museum, took the camera out of the glass cabinet and placed it in my hands. You have to understand that Soskin is Israel’s most historically acclaimed photographer, and the camera I was holding in my hands was his personal working tool. I was very excited about it. I sat to the table in one of the office rooms and peeled it from the leather casing. The moment of truth has arrived. I tried to cock the shutter release knob, but it didn’t lock. I moved it back and forth but nothing happened – the shutter didn’t budge. We were all very disappointed.

(Soskin and his Rolleiflex with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Tel-Aviv, 1961)

(Soskin’s Rolleiflex today)

I was ready to leave the museum with the promise to ask the advice of the elders of Allenby street vintage cameras workshops, when Irit asked me if I care to take the camera with me and try to fix it. Well, of course I was willing to do that, but I wasn’t sure Rani Soskin would agree to let the camera out of the museum perimeter. I was wrong. Apparently Rani had his trust in me, and he agreed to let me go on with this little adventure. Later he told me that he believe his grandfather would rather see his camera work again than sit useless.

I was walking the old streets of Tel-Aviv: Lienblum St., Kalisher St., Nahalat Binyamin St., Allenby St. – and I could feel Soskin there with me. After all, I took his old Rolleiflex. Tel-Aviv has changed deeply in the past 50 years, and I wasn’t sure if he would approve this change, or me taking his Rolleiflex…

Allenby Street goes all the way to the beach, and right there, just before you reach the promenade, there are three old stores with a lot of old cameras. I do my best to keep good relations with the owners of two of them, though only by writing these words I may be fracturing the delicate fabric of their pride. As you can probably understand, the three stores circulate the same almost gone business, and fight over a very thin crowd of clients. First I went to visit Nahum Guttmann, the old photographer and camera merchant. Guttmann came to Israel in the late 40th and worked for many years as a journalist photographer, before settling in a little store, selling and buying used camera equipment. I love the man for his photos, and I respect his advices, though he is no technician. Together we tried to operate the old camera, with no further success. It took me more than an hour to get out from his store. Guttmann plays a fundamental part in the photographic history of Israel, and has some amazing stories to tell.

(Nahum Guttmann in his store on Allenby Street)

Guttmann suggested I’ll try my luck with a store called ‘The golden camera’. I had never been there before in my life, always preferring his rival on the opposite side of the street. But I felt this camera deserved a complete checkup, so I took Guttmann’s advice and entered the glass walled store, stuffed with old cameras I could only dream to shoot with. I hit the little bell on the front desk and waited several long minutes for the manager to come. When he came, he looked at me behind his technician metal magnifying glasses, showing me in his way that he can’t spare me much time. I showed him Soskin’s Rolleiflex and asked if he could fix it. “This is a unique model” he told me immediately, and he searched for the model mark on the body of the camera. Finally he came to the conclusion that this model carries no sign or mark. He disappeared into the dark of his store and when he came back he placed on the desk the greatest camera catalogue I’ve ever seen. We identified the model of Soskin’s Rollieflex by the special design on the head of the Finder, shaped like a cross, and the aperture of the taking lens (Zeiss Jena Tessar f3.8). I was truly surprised to see that this camera model (The original old standard) is dated between the years 1932 and 1935. With this information I was more eager than ever to make this camera work. But the man behind the desk reminded me again that he didn’t have much time, and that I’m invited to leave this treasure behind. I told him that this is not my camera, and it has to get back to the museum in one hour. He wasn’t too impressed. Apparently he wasn’t caught by my excitement over the old camera.

I was down to my last resort – Photo Doron. I found Doron inside his little full of used camera equipment store, dissembling Sony video batteries in order to learn how they work. I know him for quite some time now, ever since I got this analog photography bug. He, for one, has had enough of me. I come a lot, I show him damaged cameras, I ask for his advice – but only rarely do I buy something or let him fix a camera. A real nuisance… “Now hold on”, I told him before he had time to dismiss me with the wave of his hand, “Just look at this”. Doron lowered his spectacles and took a long look at the Rolleiflex. “Can you fix it?” I asked him. He could, but he wanted me to leave it and come back later. I couldn’t. Not this time and not with this camera. We haggled for a while and agreed on the fee. I had one condition, though. I wanted him to let me film the process.

(Doron working on the Rolleiflex)

Remarkable! This 80 years camera came back to life. Some oil, a little dusting and the mechanism is moving like clockwork. With a working camera in my hand, loaded with 120 Kodak 160NC roll, I went to do some tests. It took me some time to understand all the details of how to operate the camera – How to rotate the handle between shots, where the shutter speed and aperture indicator is situated. I think I was so happy to see the shutter blinks again, that it was hard for me to concentrate on the task. Finishing the 12 photos just in time before the museum closed; I placed the camera back in the show room, and strolled to the lab. At this stage of events I already knew it will turn out just fine, and I was making phone calls – next week I’ll have another shootout, and I’ll make this camera deliver wonderful photos.

(Photos from the test shooting, taken in Tel-Aviv)

(An american ad for the Rolleiflex)

Now that I knew the exact model of the camera, I could prepare to the shootout and do some research. Rolleiflex is a twin-lens Reflex camera (TLR) made by a German company founded in 1920 by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke. Rolleiflex cameras were very popular, used by professional photographers all over the world. They use Medium Format film, measured 6 by 6 (centimeters), which was the common film size of the time, until the late 50th when 35mm film took over, leaving the Medium Format to professionals seeking higher detailed photographs for various uses. The idea of the two lenses built on the front of the camera is that the photographer view the landscape through the upper lens, and the photo is taken with the lower lens which sits right behind the shutter and film. The two lenses are synchronized so the focus that is set through the finder goes to both lenses. This twin-lens patent was a hit, and Rolleiflex was awarded the Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in Paris, 1937.

Avraham Soskin’s Rolleiflex is the Standard 621 (Probably dated to 1932). It has a Compur Rapid shutter that goes as fast as 1/300. The taking lens is a 75mm Carl Zeiss Jenna Tessar, with f/3.8 aperture. Though a lot of specifics changed over the years, the genuine built of the Rolleiflex stayed the same. It is a very reliable camera and the fact that Soskin’s Rolleiflex still works proves it.

Here are some of Soskin’s photos, taken with his Rolleiflex:

(Rani Soskin with one of his Grandfather’s albums, dedicated to photos taken with his Rolleiflex)

For the task of shooting with the Rolleiflex I called my friend and colleague Shahar Ziv. He is a producer and a very talented video editor. We invited the beautiful Ingrid Feldman to model for us, and she was happy to join our team, only for the thrill of the adventure. We had short time for the operation, so the best thing was to shoot at the Herzlilenblum museum. The place is very unique. The house was built in 1909 by the Frank family on the land they got by winning the famous seashell land lottery, done by the Ahuzat Bayit foundation in order to divide the land between the 66 founders families.

(Top: The famous photograph made by Soskin of the seashell land lottert, on the white sands of what will come to be Tel-Aviv.

Bottom: A stamp with drawing of the same event with Soskin and his Large Format camera taking the photo)

After many years of decay, the house at the corner of Herzl St. and Lilenblum St. was magnificently restored and made a museum. Using its rooms and halls for photography is a great idea and it fits with the old fashion style I wanted the photos to have. Ingrid brought a dress that resembles the style of the 20th and she was very patient during the long minutes she had to stand and pose while I did my light metering and focusing. Though Soskin himself used only black & white film for his photography, my style is different and I only use color; Two different approaches, done with the same camera, 50 years apart.

(Behind the scene – Yaniv and Ingrid. Photo by Shahar Ziv)

For the indoors locations I’ve used one roll of 120 Kodak color film, 800asa:

(Rani Soskin with his grandfather photo on the back wall)

For the second roll (160asa) we went outside to the streets of Neve Tzedek. It was a very windy day so we took shelter at a beautiful restaurant called Catit, where we’ve been invited to take more photos:

This is me taking a self-portrait:

After taking the last photo it was time to say goodbye. Soskin Rolleiflex proved its capability to take photos after more than 70 years of service, and now it was time to place it back under glass and neon lights. People go on with their lives, getting older, while a camera like Avraham Soskin’s Rolleiflex stays locked in time. I hope the light will blink again through the taking lens, and future photos will be made. A camera is like a time machine, collecting photos through the ages. Humans, on the other hand, walk on the flat line of history, having to take one step at a time. Soskin’s Rolleiflex enabled me to take a look at the past, and I used it to mark the present. Now these new photos are in the past, but the future film rolls are there, waiting patiently for their turn.

Credits:

Article and Color Photos: Yaniv Berman

Production: Shahar Ziv

Model: Ingrid Feldman

Film lab: HaPhoto, 33 Allenby St. Tel-Aviv

Thanks to Yudith Ben-Levi & Irit Fenig of the Herzlilenblum Museum.

Special thanks to Rani Soskin

All Black & White photos showed in this article are made by Avraham Soskin, all rights reserved.

Avraham Soskin’s Rolleiflex on Youtube:

My other entries to the Photographic Time Tunnel

Rolleiflex Original Standard Page on Facebook

This article in Hebrew on YNET


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