We are thrilled to be working with Neta Litvin. You can check out her collection of photos here. In order to learn more about Neta, we asked her some questions. Enjoy the interview!
1. You are a native Israeli. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family? What it was like growing up in Israel?
I am a second generation sabra, meaning my parents were born in Eretz Yisrael before Israel was its own country. For as long as I can remember, my family has been immersed in the arts. My mother works with various mediums, including clay, wood, and paper. My father is a passionate musician; he plays and teaches the guitar to students of all ages. During the 50’s, he served as a photographer for the Israeli Navy. Growing up in a house filled with music and art, I can proudly and easily trace the roots of my own creativity to my parents’ influence. I was exposed and surrounded to art in all forms, enriching my life from an early age and shaping me into the artist I am today.
Growing up in Israel during the 60’s was equal parts exciting and frightening. My family lived in a small, laid-back neighborhood in Tel Aviv. It was a wonderful place to be a child in, with many other children around to play with. I remember there were always new places to explore and discover. When the Yom Kippur War started, I was already seven years old. I don’t have many strong memories of the war, but I can never forget the uniquely Israeli sense of nationalism. There was a powerfully contagious sentiment that spread among Israelis then: The idea that we will do what we need to protect our beloved country. The Mediterranean coast is a beautiful place, and growing up there was a blissful treat. To this day it remains my favorite spot to return to: Israel will always be my home.
Photography aside, I do enjoy a variety of activities. I thrive in nature, taking walks along dirt paths and breathing in the outside air. When the wind is too chilly and the clouds are a dangerous gray, I spend time indoors where I play classical guitar. I often hum to myself as I strum a few notes, filling the room with tranquil melody. I am the mother of 2 beautiful children, who have grown up to become amazing young adults. At present, my family resides in Northern Virginia.
2. When was the first time that photography interested you? How did you decide that this was something you wanted to do professionally?
My earliest memory of photography comes from composing framed photographs through the viewfinder of my old Reflex Leica, a gift from my father to encourage my talent. During my teen years I took my first of many photography courses. Photography captured me even as I captured each scene. The process of framing and then capturing an instant on film, of choosing one single moment in our rolling reality – and then developing a customized image in the darkroom drew me in completely. The magic happened right before my eyes!
I didn’t start to seriously study photography until after serving in the Israeli army. It has been a long and at times complicated process, turning photography into my main focus. I’ve spent the past 25 years developing my skills in various creative fields through traveling and learning. Now my photography reflects a unique combination of these skills, blending my visual arts studies to explore nature and culture around the world. I am proud to call myself a photographer, and my experiences with photography are best summed up by Ansel Adams: “You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
3. How do you view your role as a photographer?
My role as a photographer is to look widely and deeply at the world around us to find and capture precious moments, subtle emotions and interesting compositions. These are moments that are often overlooked, scenes we miss in our constant rush through life. I see the photographer’s challenge as twofold: finding a significant moment, often through highlighting the seemingly mundane; and sharing this story through a single frame.
My camera is my tool to translate my vision into an art form others can enjoy. Photography allows me to express myself creatively. Every aspect of a photo is representative of my vision; lighting, colors, lines, texture, movement, and composition are all forces working together to convey my own feelings to my audience.
4. What is your view on the camera?
A camera is a necessary tool, but good art is dependent on inspiration. Photography is an art form that cannot be bought or perfected with the most expensive equipment; my images come from scenes and settings that inspire me to capture their raw beauty. I agree with Adams when he says "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." Where does the word image come from? It comes from the word "imagination". If you do not use your imagination, you will wind up with just another photograph. The camera does not attach significance to a photo. Artists fill their work with their own feelings, their own style that distinguishes a piece as being distinctly theirs.
An advantage of being a photographer in the current era is the rapid development of technology. Not just within the camera itself, but involving post-production tools as well. Personally, I enjoy manipulation of raw images to create a uniquely different, and often conflicting, look. One of my favorite art hobbies is digital painting, creating a new image from a photo that mimics the style and appearance of a painting. There really are endless possibilities out there; it’s really up to you to find which tool suits you best.
5. How would you describe your photographic style? Is there any school of thought that inspires and leads you to produce your excellent quality of work?
My careful approach to photography has evolved for decades. Diverse professional training, along with artistic pursuits, show clearly in my work’s emphases: emotion, composition, colors, and capturing organic lines and textures in photographs.
I enjoy observing nature and people and I’ve been photographing both around the world for decades. I am inspired by what is around me, most notably the outdoors. Nature is beautiful, full of wonder and energy. I have a deep love and appreciation for the natural world. Everything is always changing and growing, and creating infinite opportunities for artistic interpretations. Storms are especially a favorite of mine to document through photography. The energy and vibration of the earth is so powerful! There is nothing like the landscape after a storm. I’m in awe of the beauty; the vivid colors and the rich textures in the sky and on the land. The quickly changing environment offers a serious hurdle. My desire is to catch these scenes of pure, raw beauty and glorious drama; to capture them and present them as even more visually interesting to an everyday audience. Witnessing such raw beauty is divine, I feel as though I’m witnessing the creation of earth!
6. What is your favorite spot in Israel to photograph?
Israel, despite its small size, is abundant with diversity in its many beautiful and contrasting regions. Northern Israel, such as the Golan Heights, defines itself through lush greenery, magnificent mountains, cascading waterfalls, wineries, and volcanic hills. The other side of the country features quite the opposite. The wilderness of the Judean Desert and the Negev’s expansive desert land create a very different scenic look. There’s so much to explore within the small country.
I’m completely enchanted and drawn to Israel’s nature spots. My personal favorites would have to be the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi oasis, lower and upper Galilee including the Sea of Galilee, and the Mediterranean Sea shore line. Photographing water and exploring its relationship with the land and sky is my favorite way to interact with the uniquely Israeli environment.
7. What message would you like to communicate to the world about Israel, and the Jewish People?
Israel is such a special place! It is home to all the Jewish people, secular and orthodox, and it the Israeli society is truly unlike any other. Combined with its rich history, stunning landscape, cultural diversity, amazing food, and warm people, Israel surely exists as a treasured place on earth. There are certainly plenty of challenges that lie ahead, but I believe the Israeli people will successfully overcome these hurdles. After all, the Jewish people have always been able to rise again, even in the most extreme circumstances. I hope Israel will find ways to reach coexistence and lasting peace; we want our children to live in a safe state, free of existential fear, and to have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The Hope, Israel’s National Anthem, express this sentiment very well:
“As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”