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Heller Museum : Ralph Gibson : Sacred Land


In Sacred Land, American photographer Ralph Gibson, and producer Martin Cohen, have created a unique photographic exhibition and publication that capture the soul of Israel, both ancient and contemporary. The photographs on view at the Heller Museum in New York convey the fundamental humanity and underlying affinities that connect all who deem this land as sacred, and express aspirations for mutual understanding and peace. At a time when the war and suffering in Israel and Gaza overwhelm us, Gibson’s images offer a compelling and hopeful outlook for the future.

Sacred Land invites us into the eye of the photographer as a first-time visitor to Israel – we see what he sees, what captures his attention. It is in the details, a particular gesture, a candid pose, a fragment, a moment, that we glimpse a deeper meaning. The essence of the images is their intimacy, we are drawn close to people, places, things, the instantaneous and the eternal. Their juxtaposition reveals the convergence of antiquity and modernity.

Ralph Gibson describes Israel as “the oldest and youngest country in the world,” a place where “ancient luminosity refracts into mythology and biblical wisdom” and the durability of its limestone foundations hardened with exposure to the air, “speak louder and stronger every thousand years or so…becoming as permanent as time itself.”

The natural beauty of the details of the landscape, nature, and millennia-old archaeological artifacts express a timeless sense of wonder and spirituality. The industrial, urban images convey the impact of human imagination, ingenuity, and necessity. While each individual image captures our attention, it is Gibson’s artful pairing of images that creates the special impact of these photographs. Etched stone encounters graffiti. The rugged desert intersects with man-made materials. A quietude amid the cacophony of modern life. Each juxtaposition sparks the viewer’s imagination in making the connections – visually, emotionally, and psychologically.

Gibson conveys the complexity and multiplicity of this sacred land – across ethnicities, faiths, and transcending the millennia. His images are captured in the moment – sometimes dramatic, sometimes reflective, always riveting. They express the universal humanity of each being, the transcendence of time, and the pulse of life.

Martin Cohen describes, “In this relatively small nation one can witness and relive the very beginnings of world history; experience the world’s most advanced institutions in science, technology, and medicine – and everything in between. Jerusalem exists at the intersection of nearly all modern religions.”

“In Ralph Gibson’s Sacred Land, one senses that this place is holy to all, across all of the differences that rupture this part of the world. This exhibition projects hope for a peaceful future, where all can find healing, empathy, and shared understanding,” explains Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Director, Heller Museum.


 Ralph Gibson has produced over 40 monographs, and his photographs are included in 170 museum collections around the world and have appeared in hundreds of exhibitions. He has worked exclusively with the Leica for almost 60 years and has received numerous awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (1986) and Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur.


Ralph Gibson : Sacred Land
March 19 – July 8, 2024
Tuesday, March 19, 2024 – Opening Reception with the Artist: 6-8 pm
Heller Museum – Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
1 West 4th Street, New York

The exhibition catalog can be viewed online at



Ralph Gibson: Sacred Land
published by Lustrum Press, is available at

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