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Red Skies - Yosef Hohman

 ... but I wanted something more, more than what's there.

The solo exhibition of the photographer Yosef Hochman covers a period of activity of more than half a century. Since the 1950s, from the moment he held the camera as a boy, Hochman has been documenting and photographing life spheres focusing on man, kibbutz, society and the entire world.

As an idealist, a member of Hashomer Hatza'ir and the Hakhshara (preparation for aliyah) and later as a member of a kibbutz, Hochman accompanied the development of the Zionist ethos, turning his gaze to its less beautiful parts as well. Some of them have been self-censored for years because of the difficulty of showing them in Israeli Jewish society.

As a member of Kibbutz Harel until its (second) split and then a member of Kibbutz Ga'ash, he tells about the role of the kibbutz in the formation of Israeli society and occasionally even thinks about the kibbutz from a personal angle.

As a member of the Common Kibbutz, which operated from the late 1970s until the 1990s as a group of kibbutz artists dealing with art, society, activism and the environment, Hochman also photographed one of the highlights of the group's activity around the castle in Ga'ash, which was a home for art but also became an artistic-protest monument in and of itself. Thus, he became a major player in making the group visually accessible to the public. 

Hochman is one of the main photographers who documented major intersections in the state's political and social development, with emphasis on places where the common man is affected by the larger system - injustices and distortions, discrimination and wars (as Tali Tamir writes). Among those we can find the expulsion of refugees from the village of Emmaus near Latrun, the liberation of the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the Six Day War, the Black Panthers, the beginning of Peace Now demonstrations, May Day demonstrations, the evacuation of Yamit, Sinai during the Yom Kippur War, Egypt after the peace treaty, the civil revolution in Portugal in 1975, Berlin in the 1980s, the "Mothers" demonstrations in Argentina in 2012, and more.

This exhibition illuminates the present in light of the past, but also raises the question of the role of documentary photography as of today. Photography, which began as a completely documentary medium, developed into many sub-categories, with the documentary element being there as the basis that validated the existence of the medium.

The truth today is undergoing a process of disintegration; The possibility of creating photographic reality with the help of digital photo processing software, "staged reality" and fake news,  all cast doubt on any photographic truth that has been viewed as a "fact" in the past. When postmodernism deconstructs every absolute hierarchy, the term "documentary" is placed again on the redefining table.

On the face of it, the exhibition emphasizes a masculine reality and a male-dominated world, with the photographer also belonging to this category. 

But Hochman's gaze, which reveals an aggressive society, presents a different perception, which some may see as having feminine qualities.

The fact that Yosef Hochman was a man who filled the many "masculine" roles reserved for a Jewish man in the State of Israel during the last half century allowed him to be present in many of the places he documented, places where women were not present. However, his significant choice is what he chose to show us. What he chose casts cracks in the clear, ordered, militant and masculine conception prevailing at the time, characterized by a sharp division of gender roles.

In literary terms, one can describe Yosef Hochman as a character with anti-hero traits.

He always fulfilled his role and was part of the Zionist ethos and the apparatus he largely believed in. Still, he went out against its darker parts, not as a leader, not even as a leader of public opinion, and sometimes even as a documentarist who exercises self-censorship and keeps his materials to himself until society is ready to face them. Hochman did not act alone, nor out of an awareness vacuum; Backed by his values, his friends, his kibbutz and his movement affiliation, with the click of the camera button, he spoke their voice as well.

Israeli dramatist Hanoch Levin wrote in his Labor of Life:

... Writers and artists, the world of culture, look at us! ..

"Go to hell," the writer says, "you and your funny life!" -

Even though his life, the writer's,

is no less ridiculous - "you are holding humanity back!",

he says, "We are on the verge of a new era", -

They are always on the verge of a new era - "people fly"

he says, "to the moon, and you stick to shoes like mud,

and we are repeatedly grinding the same garbage!"

Just garbage! Garbage and garbage and more garbage! 

A writer [an artist, a photographer - AL] will appear, a virtuous, conscientious man,

with soul and heart. He'll understand. He will listen and understand.

He will hear the whole story of our lives, he'll find

the right words, he will make something beautiful out of us,

deep, full of compassion and emotion.

After all, with all the mistakes,

the flaws, we have more material in us for some good work.

Oh god, he will understand us, he will understand,

he'll understand, he'll understand, he'll understand!          Hanoch Levin, Labor of Life (1989)     

Yosef Hochman wanted something more, more than what's there. He still does.  With the same press of a button he asks that we not give up and get the same 'extra' that we lost on the way. That which is built of the milestones that the walker collects so that he can sleep well at night, with a whole heart and a quiet soul, each walker to himself as a human being and all of us together as a society.


An entire generation, myself included, grew up and was shaped by the kibbutz concept that connects man - kibbutz - society - state. The colors of our childhood are enveloped in the fragrances of the kibbutz in the 1970s and 1980s, including the natural, social, and moral beauty of the kibbutzim, which went across all the landscapes and geography of this country. Despite the great diversity, because we gathered from all corners of the world, the partnership was tremendous, in all circles: in the kibbutz, in the kibbutz movement, in the Histadrut, in political parties. They all shared the same extensive biography.

The delicate seam between Hochman's strong documentary foundation and his idealistic conception of man and society, together with his vast body of work and the perspective that is now possible over those years, come together to create the power of his photographic work.

Anat Lidror, Curator



Tali Tamir

In Yosef Hochman's hands, the camera is a weapon and a gatekeeper, and photography, as Ariela Azoulay defines it, is a civilian device for identifying sites of vulnerability and violence. Armed with the camera lens, Hochman gathered testimonies and collected data on a world full of injustices and distortions, deprivation and wars. Hochman, who was born in Argentina, brought with him the internal alertness to injustice, the natural suspicion of power and the apparatus of government, the automatic caution of political power, and the imperative to be on guard, to be alert and not to let go. Hochman is one of those who hold the camera to prevent the evils from slipping out of sight, so as not to allow the injustice to disappear or fade back into oblivion. From the point of view of daily reality in Israel and abroad, the camera is a political weapon that illuminates dark corners, suspends events, raises interpretations and generates awareness.

A large part of Hochman's photographic activity was made when he was a member of a kibbutz (Harel, Ga'ash) and some of his significant exhibitions took place within the framework of the "The Common Kibbutz" group that operated between 1977- 1990.  Nevertheless, the field of vision of his camera went beyond the kibbutz yard and looked at the whole society. Hochman, like another member of the group, Ya'akov Shofar, was one of the first to photograph the development towns and slums and pointed out the gaps in Israeli society.

In contrast to the seclusionist image of the kibbutz movement, Hochman and Shofar, in the framework of their activities in the "Common Kibbutz" group, expanded their gaze and included areas that had been unnoticed and excluded, places the camera did not compliment, but exposed for their inherent pain.

Members of "The Common Kibbutz" proposed a new model for the artist's activity in kibbutz society: no longer a "kibbutz artist" who serves the collective, produces ornaments for the holidays and decorates the dining room, but an artist who observes the society in which he lives and reflects it with a critical eye. On the face of it, this is not an easy reversal: Instead of a positive and supportive figure, who fully identifies with the collective entity, a new function has emerged, which no one predicted, that of the critical observer who responds and offers a warning.

Like the idea drawn by Theodore Adorno, one of the founders of the  Frankfurt School of philosophical-social thought in the 1930s, the purpose of art in society is not to approve and praise what exists, but to challenge it and examine it anew. 

The historical background that led to the formation of the Common Kibbutz group included a political upheaval (1977), the rise of the Likud party to power, and the feeling that stable and recognized elements have become undermined. However, the same gaze that followed these external changes also responded to internal changes and documented deep cracks within socialist ideology. The members of "The Common Kibbutz" dealt with "dissolving myths" (Haim Maor), petrification and stagnation (Yuval Danieli) and Marathon reading of Marx's writings while removing one's clothes (Ya'akov Hefetz) until the naked body became exposed.  It all aimed at one thing: the moral impoverishment of socialist ideology and the loss of values ​​of social justice and equality. Hochman's sensitivity to the fundamental values ​​of revolution, human rights, class struggles, and the sounding of hushed and excluded voices could also bridge the gaps between the kibbutz society that had to redefine itself and those still waiting for redefinition. But always, within the broad human gaze, Hochman emphasized the most important thing, which cannot be compromised: unnecessary wars, the dead and the victims.


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