BLACK & WHITE & INFRARED ALL OVER
A Spotlite on Photographer NIR ARIELI and His INFRAMEN Project
By Eden Herbstman
There’s something hauntingly beautiful when confronted with Nir Arieli’s photographs from his project series “INFRAMEN.” The series captures different black and white portraits of male dancers, some posing and some in motion, all highlighting each individual body and unique form. Arieli brings a type of honesty to the forefront of each portrait through the gaze of his infrared photo technique, allowing every detail of the human body to have clear representation: every freckle, scar, hairline, and muscle. What some viewers may consider flaws or worthy of a quick photoshop fix, Arieli celebrates and illuminates within this powerful composition. I spoke with him about this amazing photo series, and much more.
Eden Herbstman: As an artist, how did you become interested in photography as your medium for artistic expression?
Nir Arieli: I was drawn to creating art from a young age. The fast learning curve that digital photography enabled won me over. Today I understand that photography grants me access to people. It’s a type of social interacting that I’m not able to do by myself. It gives me great power and opportunity to have an intimate moment with a stranger. We live in an age of instant satisfaction and photography creates instant intimacy that expires once the session is over. I find it quite beautiful and very satisfying to share this private moment with so many strangers.
EH: In your series INFRAMEN, you use an interesting infrared photography technique. Tell me about that technique and what it adds to your photography?
NA: The infrared processing brings to the surface everything that is in a warm tone, so everything that is under our skin suddenly comes out. Scars, stretch marks, and sun damage are turned dark and more visible. This is not a flattering “look,” but with the dancers, who are in an excellent physical shape and in their early twenties, it creates a complex contrast and fighting forces. The body is the dancer”s tool, it is beautiful but also abused and often injured. It”s fascinating to look at it with this light. It also feels like creating a new kind of intimacy of the portrait, stripping someone from not only their clothes, but their skin too.
EH: Was this your first foray into infrared photography or has infrared photography long been something that interested you?
NA: I”ve used this technique before as a part in the process of digitally manipulating images, but it is the first time it becomes the main tool and the subject matter of a project.
EH: What is it about dancers that first prompted you to use them as your subject matter?
NA: My cousin Tal is an incredible dancer. When I was a student in SVA, he was a student in Juilliard. He introduced me to his dancers friends and exposed me to their performances. I realized then that dance fascinates me. If I can say something personal, I don”t dance at all, not even at a party. I admire dancers because they can do what seems to me impossible. The training process of a dancer teaches the body to do things that it can”t do naturally. I observe it like a child, like it”s a super power. Aside from the physical qualities, these are people who are so dedicated to what they do, subvert norms of gender, and are often thrilled to collaborate on projects of different art mediums. It”s also quite a pleasure collaborating with them.
EH: It is such an interesting collection of images in the sense that to watch dancers is to watch movements, yet your pictures freeze these moments in time. How do you feel your photography plays with ideas of movement and stillness?
NA: This is actually the exact idea that I was thinking about when I started working on my body of work called “Tension.” I wanted to make something that uses the qualities of these two art forms: dance and photography. Photography is all about the one decisive moment and dance is necessarily about a collection of moments. In “Tension” I”m merging few moments, a movement, into one image. In the still projects like “Inframen,” I”m thinking about the movement that stays in the dancer”s body in all time. There is something about dancers that is never still and I”m trying to acknowledge that in my work, even when doing portraits.
EH: As a photographer how do you challenge yourself to find subject matter that you are passionate about?
NA: I think that finding passion in subject matter is the easiest task in being an artist. Artists are always filled with ideas and interests. I actually struggle to sensor and find that specific thing that I”m not just passionate about, but will also make a great visual and might interest my viewers as well. I hope that my work is as universal as possible. I”d like many people to have access to it. That is the reason I”m making it.
EH: How do you play with themes of masculinity and femininity through your work?
NA: One of the first bodies of work I”ve made is about that side of masculinity that I felt was oppressed in the course of human history. Sensitivity, vulnerability, and the ability to show uncensored emotion are things that men are encouraged to stay away from today. I believe that the emotional spectrum of men and women is exactly the same and since I”ve done this first project that was called “Men,” I”ve been trying to embed this idea in each project I”m doing. I love androgynous models, but I”m also taking upon myself to perform all of these things I”m preaching for in the process of my work, and in the photo session.
EH: What is one way you wish to impact your audience through your photographs?
NA: I feel like my role as an artist is to create something interesting and raise questions. I don”t have an agenda to educate or predetermine the impact the work has on the viewers. When someone spends more than one moment in front of my work, I consider it a success.
EH: Do you have any up coming projects you can share with us?
NA: I do have one major project I”m working on and a few ideas and sketches that are flying in my head. It is too soon to give too many details about this main project, but, in short, it deals with a whole dance company as a unit. It is a very ambitious project and I”m trying to look for funding for it now. I hope to photograph in Europe as well this time. Dance is a truly fascinating field, and I feel that there is much more to visually investigate in it.
Nir Arieli is a New York based photographer and artist.
Written by Eden Herbstman
Photography by & Courtesy of Nir Arieli
Design by Mina Darius
Cover / Page 1:
Evan, From the Series INFRAMEN, Photography by Nir Arieli
Austin, From the Series INFRAMEN, Photography by Nir Arieli
LEFT: Devon, From the Series INFRAMEN, Photography by Nir Arieli
RIGHT: Evan, From the Series INFRAMEN, Photography by Nir Arieli
Clinton, From the Series INFRAMEN, Photography by Nir Arieli