Micha Bar-Am is a German-born Israeli journalistic photographer. His images cover every aspect of life in Israel in the past sixty years. Since 1968 he has been a correspondent with Magnum, the photographic cooperative. From 1968 to 1992, he was The New York Times
photographic correspondent from Israel. He has published several books of photography, beginning in 1957. His work is held in numerous international museums and institutes throughout the world.
Born in Berlin to a Jewish family, Bar-Am moved with his parents in 1936 to then British Mandate of Palestine. He attended local schools. He was drafted in 1948 and served during the 1947–1949 Palestine war, when he was part of the Palmach Unit. Afterward, he worked several jobs, including as a locksmith and a mounted guard, before becoming a photographer. In 1949 he co-founded the kibbutz Malkia in Galilee. Later he became a member of Kibbutz Gesher HaZiv.
In the early 1940s, Bar-Am started taking pictures of life on a kibbutz; he used borrowed cameras until he bought a Leica. After his military service, he began photographing more seriously.
After publishing his first book, Across Sinai
(1957), Bar-Am gained work as a photographic reporter and in the editorial staff of the Israeli Army magazine, Ba-Mahaneh, from 1957 to 1967. In 1961 he covered the Eichmann trial.
In 1967 he covered the Six-Day War, during which time he met Cornell Capa
. Many of his war images brought him renown. Since 1968, he has been a correspondent for Magnum Photos
. In 1974 he helped Capa found the International Center of Photography in New York City. In 1968, Bar-Am also became the photographic correspondent from Israel for The New York Times, a position he held until 1992. From 1977 to 1992, he was head of the department of photography at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
He continues to work on his photography. He writes about his work:
"I keep my internal eye open for that other, metaphorical image that transcends illustration to achieve a wholeness of its own. I strive for the elusive entity that is both evidence and evocation, public record and personal vision."
He says that he has adopted Robert Capa
's saying, "If your photographs aren't good enough, you weren't close enough,"
but has added a caveat:
"If you're too close you lose perspective. It is not easy to be fair with the facts and keep your own convictions out of the picture. It is almost impossible to be both a participant in the events and their observer, witness, interpreter. The effort brings great frustration, and equally great reward."
Born in Berlin in 1930, Micha Bar-Am emigrated to Israel (then Palestine) with his parents at age six. During his youth, Bar-Am became active in the pre-state underground and was drafted in 1948. After serving in the war, he helped found the Kibbutz Malkiya in Galilee. Soon after, Bar-Am moved to Kibbutz Gesher-Haziv, where he took his first photographs of archeological digs in the Judean desert. He borrowed his camera from an American member of his kibbutz who teased that though Bar-Am’s photographs were better than his own, they would never be used, as Bar- Am was only a “kibbutz dilettante.” Bar-Am proved this statement wrong; his work was soon published in the Israeli Army magazine Bama Hana. In 1957, he was offered a full time job as a staff photographer for the magazine.
In the following years, Bar-Am continued to document the Israeli army. In 1967, he photographed the Six-Day War, during which he met Cornell Capa. Capa and Bar-Am became friends and he introduced Bar-Am to Magnum, a photographic co-operative where Bar-Am would become an associate. In 1968, Bar-Am began his career as a New York Times correspondent and documented the Israeli Palestinian conflict from Suez to the Golan Heights.
Bar-Am was closely involved with the founding of the International Center of Photography in 1974, working alongside Cornell Capa as a curator. He became the Curator of Photography for the Tel Aviv Art Museum in 1977. He left this position in 1992, and has been working on his own photography ever since.
Though often classified as such, Micha Bar-Am is not merely a photojournalist (an assignation Bar-Am himself refuses). His work represents more than documentation of the action of war. Bar-Am’s photography captures the changed lives and lifestyles of Israeli men and women as a result of the years of conflict. His carefully composed shots contain a thoughtfulness and artfulness often unseen within documentary photography. His work continues to be published and exhibited around the world.
Source: International Center of Photography