Oded Wagenstein : Giving and Receiving
Photographer and lecturer, Oded Wagenstein uses photography as a medium to explore the link between aging and exclusion.
His work on this subject has been published by National Geographic, the Washington Post, the BBC, the Guardian, VOGUE, and others, and has been exhibited internationally, including exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery (London, UK), the United Nations (New York, USA), and other venues.
He holds degrees in sociology, anthropology and film and television from Tel Aviv University and is the author of three books.
He is currently working with JDC-ESHEL, which is part of a global advocacy NGO for the elderly. He is also a lecturer at the Tel Aviv-based Galitz School of Photography, where he has taught the art of photography to both Jewish and Muslim students for over ten years, he also conducts workshops around the world. From Tokyo to Havana, he teaches hundreds of professional and amateur photographers to use their cameras as a tool to explore the world.
His view of the world is fair and uncompromising. And his images tell life stories. Intimate, powerful and evocative, they have often won awards, including the AFAR Travel Photography Award and the Portrait Award.
Your first photographic click ?
Oded Wagenstein : At age six. It was a dinosaur puppet attached to a string.
The man of images who inspires you?
Oded Wagenstein : I have been inspired by many photographers: Alec Soth, Josef Koudelka, Michel Chelbin, Larry Sultan, and Willam Albert Allard, to name a few.
I find that inspiration from the work of others has been and still is the most important part of my development as a photographer. It sounds paradoxical that by delving into the work of others, you are succeeding in creating something of your own. But I find that to be the case.
The image you would have liked to make?
Oded Wagenstein : I greatly admire artists who create meaningful and universal work within their homes and family boundaries. Like Sally Mann, Larry Sultan, Nancy Borowick, and Elinor Carucci.
I am not there yet, but I would like to be.
The one you regret you didn’t make?
Oded Wagenstein : There’s no picture or a specific moment I’m sorry I missed. I’m sure there were some. But as a mental policy, I try not to dwell on them.
But this question reminded me of a picture I’m sorry I did take.
It was in the Cemetery of Mount Koya in Japan (KoyaSan). One of the most magical places I have been in the world.
It’s a bit strange to say that a cemetery is a “magical” place – But with over two hundred thousand tombstones, in the middle of a forest of mighty cedar trees, surrounded by dozens of temples, at the summit of a mountain that is always shrouded in mist, it is a magical place. It was early in the morning, and I noticed a woman standing in front of a tombstone of a loved one. The woman stood silently for about a minute. There was something so quiet and intimate at that moment that I had to take a picture. And that’s exactly why I felt it was out of place when I lowered the camera a moment later. There are moments so special and intimate that they should remain only of one person and not anyone else.
I deleted that photo.
The one that moved you the most?
Oded Wagenstein : I think the picture of Mordechai. Because of his amazing story of love and loss. I felt that together we managed to express complex emotions like longing, loss, and memory in that picture.
And the one that made you angry?
Oded Wagenstein : In Cuba, I photographed a pig on the street, and a few seconds later, it was slaughtered in front of my eyes. I will never forget this horrible moment.
The quality needed to be a good photographer?
Oded Wagenstein : It depends a lot on the field of photography you are in. While in wildlife photography, traits like patience and physical and mental resilience can be very helpful, in fashion or food photography, you are required to have other qualities.
I think the most important quality in people’s photography is the ability to “read” and transfer emotions.
This is one of the exercises I give my students – trying to match their strong (and weak) qualities to a photography genre in which they can be most successful.
The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?
Oded Wagenstein : Again, this very much depends on the purpose of the image. The purpose of a landscape image is different than the purpose of an abstract.
But if I must try to sum some “meta” quality to photo-making in general, it will be the ability to “put” yourself in the image. That every image you make will be as a “self-portrait.”
The person you would dream of photographing?
Oded Wagenstein : My grandfather, which passed away when I was very young. Less for the picture and more for the conversation around the photo-making.
An essential photo book?
Oded Wagenstein : Larry Sultan – Pictures from Home
In your wildest dreams, if you could afford a work of art (photo, painting, sculpture) whatever the price, what would it be?
Oded Wagenstein : A signed copy of W. Eugene Smith’s – “Tomoko and Mother in the Bath.” This image is divine.
Your first camera ?
Oded Wagenstein : 40D by Canon
The one you use today?
Oded Wagenstein : 5d Mark IV by Canon
Social media wise, are you Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok or snapchat? And what is your opinion about it ?
Oded Wagenstein : Mostly Instagram. I am too old for Tik Tok
Color or B&W?
Oded Wagenstein : Color. I find that it takes a spectacular degree of skill, and a powerful sensitivity to light, to be able to convey in black and white the “palette” of emotions that can be conveyed in color. I’m not at that level yet.
Daylight or artificial light?
Oded Wagenstein : Daylight.
Your favorite drug?
Oded Wagenstein : Holding my daughter’s hand before she goes to sleep.
The best way to disconnect for you?
Oded Wagenstein : A visit to an art museum.
Your greatest quality?
Oded Wagenstein : Arrrr….. Can’t answer this one.
The job you would not have liked to do?
Oded Wagenstein : An accountant. Defiantly an accountant,
Your greatest extravagance as a photographer?
Oded Wagenstein : Buying too many photo-books
The values you wish to share through your images?
Oded Wagenstein : Respect and sensitivity towards the elderly in our society.
The city, country or culture you still don’t know and dream of discovering?
Oded Wagenstein : The history of my family., Especially those who were murdered in the holocaust.
The place you never get tired of?
Oded Wagenstein : Bangkok. I love this city!
Your biggest regret?
Oded Wagenstein : A waste of 4 years studying for a degree in university.
The most photogenic city according to you ?
Oded Wagenstein : Havana. Been there dozens of times, but you always find something new.
If I organized a special dinner for you, who would you like me to invite at your table ?
Oded Wagenstein : My late ancestors
If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Oded Wagenstein : I sure hope there are no cameras in heaven. I would like to rest a bit.