"Photography is not like painting," Henri Cartier-Bresson told The Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative, Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."1
Driving through Little Haiti, Overtown, and Downtown Miami to avoid traffic and construction, I developed an obsession with the people, colors, and environment that defined my drive to school and work. Like T.S. Eliot in his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” we both found ourselves seeking to connect to an unfamiliar society, longing for acceptance.” I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each / I do not think they will sing to me” (124, 125) 2.
Fifty years later, my images like those of “The Americans” by Robert Frank, reflect a similar perspective of America yet now embodying the cultural integration that is characteristic of the 21st century. Originally from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a monochromatic steel town, I was transported out of the gloom and into the glitter. “What are you looking at Cracker?” was my welcome.
And I have known the eyes already, known them all-
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall
Then how should I begin. (55-59) 2
“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet (26, 27) 2.
1) Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1908-2004, The Acknowledged Master of the Moment By Adam BernsteinWashington, Post Staff Writer, Thursday, August 5, 2004; Page A01
2) The Love Song Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Elliot, The Norton Anthology World Materpieces, 1999
“Window Shopping” is a series of portraits inspired by the prostitution of artists during the week of Art Basel in Miami. Disenchanted, battered, defeated faces become the vehicle to unmask the pimps of the art world. Artist, dealer and collector become participants in the art of solicitation
One third of the proceeds of each image sold went back to the pimp of each girl.
The Hebrew word Tamim translates as “pure”, “unblemished”, and “complete”. Photographer Zack Balber offers his unique, incongruous twist on Tamim’s denotation. Using portrait photography as his vehicle, Balber intimately uncovers the camouflaged identity of some of Judaism’s most unfamiliar Jews.
Born and raised in gritty inner-city neighborhoods throughout the country, both the photographer and many of his subjects were void of Jewish role models. Instead of praising their ancestry, they concealed their culture behind tattoos and vanity in a pursuit to assimilate.
Relocated to the close-knit Jewish community in Miami, Balber began to reconnect with his roots. During his cultural rediscovery, he encountered men who were similarly unorthodox yet retained that indefinable Jewish spark. Interestingly, when approached with the opportunity to be photographed as Jews, these ordinarily recalcitrant men let go of their powerful exteriors and embraced the vulnerability of portrait photography. When the participants donned the yarmulke that Zack Balber wore for his Bar Mitzvah, each of them expressed a spiritual reconnection to their culture, captured within these photographs.
Balber’s portraits of men who are ostensibly Tamim--proud, unashamed, and whole—exquisitely reveal their insecurity, vulnerability, and fear of exposure. Although their appearances may initially distract us from their inner reality, the tattoos and bling cannot obscure their heritage of Hebrew day school, spiritual mentors, or even the Holocaust... In an introspective discussion on his body of work, Balber noted, “that religion is far
more than skin deep and that a connection with G-d can always be reignited.”
Working in Downtown Miami I was constantly asked for money and cigarettes at least twice a day. I wanted to change my experience with the homeless that saw me as a walking dollar bill. Sometimes, I would turn my cheek and pretend I didn't hear them, or completely ignore them. This series is an attempt to even the playing field and not feel used or exploited by the Homeless. Every time I was asked for a cigarette, a few dollars, some food etc; I asked them for a portrait. They asked me what I would do with the portrait, and I asked them what they are doing with the dollar. A fair exchange in which I looked forward to being asked for money because I was able to have a new portrait based on their barter system.
Imagine you and your lover's worst nightmare, you leave your camera on a table in a bar in downtown Miami and a group of guys find it.
I was delivered a memory card with an envelope that said enjoy these images, do whatever you want with them. They enclosed a brief story of finding the camera and thought I would like the images.
525 images later, I was taken on a tour of a well endowed young man and an older woman on their travels to the Ruins and leaving Miami Beach. The people became less important to the act of flipping through someone's intimate life and seeing it objectively. Some of the images were very provocative and others unveiled moments that I started to deconstruct through various editing techniques. "
I edit photos every day of my life for fashion, advertising, Realestate and Fine Art so I began to move through someone's intimate experience as an editorial voyeur.
Susan Sontag states, “Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced as amusement as sex and dancing-which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety and a tool of power” (Sontag p.8)
According to Diane Arbus “Photography was a license to go wherever I wanted and do what I wanted to do. The camera is a kind of passport that annihilates moral boundaries and social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibility toward the people photographed.” Advertising is all around us yet it affects us on a subconscious level. Most people claim that advertising has no affect on them because they “block it out”. “America’s Bulletin Board” exposes outdoor advertising as a distorted cultural language that reduces life’s experiences to slogans and snapshots. Using new technology, catchy slogans, and beautiful models they powerfully, colorfully, and subtly create “America’s Bulletin Board’s” which create a surrealist dream of what life is supposed to look like. Driving from Miami to North Carolina I gathered a small section of the outdoor advertising that all of us are exposed to everyday. Using candid snap shots juxtaposed against the advertising campaigns, I am able to unveil outdoor advertising as a distorted cultural language that reduces life experience to slogans and snap shots.
Scribbling with White-out, and permanent markers, I was given a families heirloom of vintage playboys from Venezuela. So, as a boy I scribbled new hair colors, changed backgrounds and as Gulliver mentions in Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver says to the Huynnonyyymms "Please allow me to keep those parts of me concealed as God intended. " The Huynnonyyymms replied "Why Would God ask you to conceal something he gave you?"
Desecrate is the act of depriving something of its sacred character, or the disrespectful or contemptuous treatment of that which is held to be sacred or holy by a group or individual. Unrealistic women have become our sacred icons. Perfect skinned, cellulite free, well groomed, hour glassed women have become our vehicle to sell life. Unfortunately women’s new measuring stick of beauty has become Photoshop's ability to perfect our imagination. In this series I work with Hollywood Horror makeup artist Joanna Chelsea to disrespect and insult the fictitious ideal of beauty. This series is a collection of images luring the viewer into the Porno setting, questioning the emotional response to a culturally acceptable taboo.