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XX Retrospective

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In 1993 I decided to study photography and start taking pictures. 

I was 23 years old and had no idea that I would become a professional photographer

… and still be at it 20 years later. 

At that time I threw myself into taking pictures and photographed anything that I found interesting.

I was lucky because I was surrounded by other artists ; actors, musicians, filmmakers who were all eager to learn and open to experimenting.

At first I pursued photojournalism and worked at a weekly community newspaper. I was influenced by classical black and white photographers,  many of them woman, who pioneered documentary style shooting.  Woman like Dorthea Lange, Margaret Bourke White, Diane Arbus created a fertile environment for all female photographers that would come after them.  I fantasized about being a war photographer.

I  traveled to war torn areas like Gaza and the West Bank,  where I photographed in refugee camps and in areas that were occupied by both Israelis and Arabs,  these were very tense environments   The result was a gritty black & white portrait series of a people in the crossfire of political disharmony and an uncertain future.

When I returned from Gaza I decided that war photography was not for me.  Early on  I realized that  although I thought that photojournalists were like super heroes, choosing that path would likely lead me to a very lonely and dangerous existence.

In the late 90’s  I married my husband Jonas and after the Millennium I moved onto colour film.  I began to photograph and study subcultures.  Body builders, wrestlers, gamblers, teens & farmers to name a few. I would spend every weekend working on my own personal projects.  To earn a living I would photograph events and portraits.

I continued to travel and take pictures, mostly all candid.  I loved to meet and talk to people from different cultures and walks of life.

I always went out of bounds open and aware, that always lead me to amazing discoveries.

By 2005 I was photographing for national, international magazines and taking on big budget advertising work.

This is also when I had my daughter Jordan and became a mother for the first time.

Shortly after Jordan´s second birthday she began mentioning ‘ The Princesses’, She suddenly  began to ask for  Princess movies, books and costumes.  This  Disney Princess phenomenon was sweeping young girls around the world and this completely fascinated me.  I was born and raised in Israel until the early 70s.  There I was exposed to Yiddish tales and biblical stories.  Israell was still innocent to the icons of the West.   I was reintroduced to the ´Disnified´ versions of the classic fairy tales and was discovering it all with my daughter.

At the same time my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer . The two events came together for me when I began to wonder what if these Princesses had to deal with a real problem like Cancer?

What would happen to them years after their the ‘Happily Ever After’ ending?  What if life didn’t quite work out for them as they had hoped?  How would they age and adjust to the eventual complexities of real life.

The Fallen Princesses project was conceived in 2007.

As I re-imagined the well known characters of popular parables I would give them a modern story, a struggle and a new audience.

I completed the project in 2009 just before my second daughter Zoe was born.

I posted the series on JPG.com and a day later I was inundated with media requests.

The Princesses had gone viral!

I spent several months and years after that enjoying seeing my work published in print and on the web.

I have been recognized in the academic world and the work is often referenced in essays and dissertations.

The project has since been included in text books and curriculums around the world.

The Fallen Princesses have been exhibited internationally, in galleries and museums.

A few years later I began observing my two daughters, and their friends, role playing with Barbie and Ken dolls.

I began to observe the plastic couple with a more critical eye.

I decided that my next project would explore the pink private lives of Barbie and Ken.  I would build a classic French Provincial fiftyesque home for this iconic and ´ideal´ American couple.

In this 10 part, sequential narrative tableau, series Ken and Barbie´s story unfolds as we peak in to their pink abode.  What we discover is a sad tale of a modern couple challenged by a long term imposed marriage,  a shallow existence and  a lack of authenticity.

The Dollhouse came alive with  the help of an amazing cast and crew,  many volunteers  and friends who helped me bring this very ambitious project to life at the X Buschlen Mowatt gallery.

The project debuted in 2012 and has been described as a “commentary on the transient nature of beauty, the difficulty of marriage and the importance of authenticity.”

In 2013 I opened up my studio located of of Commercial Dr. or ´The Drive´  as its´s known to the locals.  It´s on the East side of Vancouver.

I’m currently in production on my third large scale project ‘Gods of Suburbia’.

This year I celebrate 20 years as a photographer.

I would like to thank my family and friends for their support during this double decade journey.

looking forward to the next 20 years…

enjoy XX!

Aids

AIDS 1993

The very sound of the word strikes emotion in the hearts of all of us. Yet it was not until 1982 that the term was formally defined in medical literature. In one decade AIDS went from unknown, stereotyped gay disease, to front page headlines.  It now threatened large segments of the world’s population. The 90’s became the ‘AIDS DECADE’ and my generation was heading towards a cultural shift.  Irritating sexually transmitted diseases looked petty next to the killer AIDS! The new sexual revolution would include education and precaution.  Sex was now way more complicated!

On a trip to San Francisco, with my brand new boyfriend Jonas, I came upon this beautiful figure leaning against a painted mural at a quaint cafe.

I asked the man if he would mind me photographing him.  He nodded and I began to shoot. I remember it being very still and quiet.  I took 4 pictures of him and then sat down. It was then that he told me that he was dying of AIDS. He was living his last days and here I was a young, sweet and naive kid playing with my camera. I thanked him and promised that I would never forget him.

This picture is one of favourites because it reminds me that behind the image there is a real person.  I try to always remember this.

Thanks Danny, RIP.

pothead

POTHEAD 1995

Israel, inspired me to start photographing.

My family emigrated to Canada in 1976.  Before that we lived in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Growing up, while my friends were off to summer camp, I would travel on my own to Israel to visit my family.

Israel was always a nostalgic place for me, where biblical stories came alive, where I could lie on the beach for hours and explore my heritage while going through boxes and boxes of pictures in my grandmother’s bureau.

Jerusalem is a magical city!

Beauty, history and heartbreak all wrapped into one place that houses so many different religious groups.

I decided to go into Mea Shearim which remains an insulated neighbourhood in the heart of jerusalem. With it’s overwhelmingly orthodox population, the streets retain the flavor of an East European shtetl and life revolves around strict adherence to prayer, and the study of Jewish texts. Traditions in dress may include black frock coats and black or fur-trimmed hats for men and long-sleeved, modest clothing for women. In some groups, the women wear thick black stockings all year long, including summer. Married women wear a variety of head coverings, from wigs to headscarves. The men have beards and some grow long sidecurls, called Peyos.  The residents speak yiddish in their daily lives, and use hebrew only for prayer and religious study, as they believe Hebrew to be a sacred language only to be used for religious purposes.

I was certainly not welcomed and felt very uncomfortable walking around Mea Shearim with my camera. Despite this I challenged myself to stay and carry on. i left with a collection of photographs that i cherish today including this one which I, in jest, named pothead.

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JEWISH BEGGAR 1994

NYC has always held a special place in my heart.  It’s my soul city,  I belong when I’m there.

There are some cities that speak to me in colour and NY is not one of them. I see both Paris and New York City in B/W.

My first trip to NY was quite exciting. I explored Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. My camera always by my side. I shot everything and anything that inspired me.  I was open and free of inhibitions, not shy to approach people on the street.

Since I was already documenting Hasids in Jerusalem, I was interested in continuing this theme in the United States, especially in NY which is home to many Orthodox Jews.

I wandered into the Diamond District, an area with many Hasids operating jewelry shops.  It was a bustling area with lots of traffic, street noise and greasy smells.

I remember seeing a white bearded man standing against a marble wall.  He was so still while everyone around him was rushed and hurried.

This elderly man, dressed in a typical hasidic black suit, was a jewish beggar.  He seemed so sad and I felt that while photographing him. His stare made me slightly uncomfortable.  Did he approve of my camera staring at him?  I would have liked to know his story, i asked… but he only spoke Yiddish.

Although I have many frames from this trip I will always consider this one a favorite.

Gaza

GAZA 1999

Traveling to Gaza and the Westbank was very pivotal to me as a young photographer.

I showed up at the border with a press pass ready to enter Gaza and take pictures. The guards would not let me through for hours. After many phone calls to the press office in Jerusalem, and pretending that I didn’t speak Hebrew, I was finally let it.

By then I lost my ride into town. My FIXER (someone who guides journalists in foreign countries) and fellow press photographer ‘Mo’ , had left thinking I didn’t get in.

When I finally got through to him he directed my taxi to drop me off at a scuffle  that he was covering, close to the Egyptian border.

I was let off right in the middle of it and that’s when I met Mo for the first time.

Israeli soldiers on one side ; Palestinians on the other, throwing rocks at each other.  The press…right in the middle!

With rocks just missing me, my hands began to shake and I was shocked.

Despite this I did manage to get a few good shots.  The scuffle ended a couple of hours later and the left overs were insanely thirsty.  An Israeli soldier passed a Palestinian camera man his canteen, he passed it to me and I passed it back to the soldier.

I said: ‘If everyone shared the water then we could have peace’ .

Mo was a wonderful help guiding me through the streets of Gaza  at Jabalia (a large refugee camp). He introduced me to his friends and family who invited me to photograph in their homes  and to hear their stories.

I have hundreds of negatives from this trip and yet I always remember this one of a woman named ARGAN…. who talked to me about the recently assassinated Prime Minister Rabin, who was her ‘only hope for peace’.

I came back from this trip with the realization that war photography was not for me. I wanted to focus on people and their stories.

I discovered that editorial work was perfect for me and I loved (and still) really enjoy photographing portraits of people.

Ballerina

BALLERINA ON THE TOILET  1992

I had just discovered my passion for photography, so I dove right in!

At that time I was surrounded by a group of friends that were all involved in the arts.  Actors, Musicians, Painters and Photographers.

I had so many subjects to shoot. I made many album covers and took lots of head-shots for my aspiring Actor friends.

A good friend Jennifer Copping was cast in play at the Arts Club Theater. Her character was a Ballerina who wore a classic Tu Tu outfit. Jennifer suggested that I come by to shoot a few pictures before she went on stage.

I photographed her at a mirror getting ready but when she sat down to go to the bathroom I knew that was our shot.

This photograph was distributed to many friends and family and ended up in many toilets..sorry Jen!

Unfortunately the original negative was badly damaged and what remains is a file made from a scanned large print.

I wanted to include this image because in the early days it was my best known and popular piece.

David

DAVID 1992-2002

Green Nude 2000

This image was taken in a storage warehouse Downtown Vancouver.  All of the furniture and props were found on site and styled by David.  David posed naked in the many different rooms of the warehouse.

This frame is my favourite because it assumes a classic female nude pose, that remains so natural with David’s masculine figure.

I met David Manske while waitressing at a restaurant in Gastown.  David was an aspiring Art Director and Artist.

We were both so young and full of ideas that we wanted to execute in the most brilliant way.  We drove each other crazy arguing a point or deciding on an element a shoot and yet together we worked to create many beautiful portraits of ‘David’ over a 10 year period.

We collaborated with talented artists and incorporated costumes, masks and body paint in the shoots.

At that time I was playing with colour film and experimenting with X processing.

Both David and I were both fascinated with the work of Frida Kahlo and wanted to pay tribute to the brilliant Artist.

Frida

ODE TO FRIDA 2002

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DEAD SEA 2008

This is my favorite place on Earth!

Around 3,000,000 years ago the valley of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, was repeatedly inundated by waters from the Mediterranean sea. The waters formed in a narrow, crooked bay which was connected to the sea as The floods of the valley came and went and deposited beds of salt that eventually became 3 km thick.

The mineral content of the Dead Sea is very different from that of ocean water. The exact composition of the Dead Sea water varies mainly with season, depth and temperature.

The salt concentration of the Dead Sea fluctuates around 31.5%. Anyone can easily float in the Dead Sea because of this natural buoyancy.

Today The Dead Sea area has become a major center for research in treatment and therapies for many illnesses including Psoriasis, Rhino sinusitis and Osteoarthritis.

It is also a resort town were the weather is perfect all year round and the sea is like a huge bathtub. You can relax… there are no living creatures to nip at your feet.  Nothing beyond Ameba survives in the potently salty water.

I float and totally loose myself, even in the dark night, I’m at peace. *You don’t jump into the dead sea you walk in slowly.

Salt water may get in your eye and this is very painful.  Everyone does it once and learns their lesson quickly.

Walking in with my camera was also a bit of a challenge.

Twins

TWINS  2004

When I travel I take pictures, lots of pictures.  I have always photographed candid portraits, while on vacation or on assignment in a far away location.  I shoot with my favorite camera; my 6.45 medium format fuji.  I love this camera like an old friend.  Some of my favorite pictures were taken with this camera.

This beautiful lens combined with the right films, conceives strikingly sharp and character filled negatives.

‘Twins’ was taken while on a trip to Atlanta, Georgia to visit my Cousin. I took the Martin Luther King’s house tour, and when I stepped out I saw these brothers walking side by side. I ask them to come across the street with me and then asked them to stand against the brick wall. They posed so stiff and straight, like soldiers.

Photographers have always been fascinated with twins and many produce long term projects on the topic.

My portrait was made in the classic style of such greats as: Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, and Mary Ellen Mark.

Bodybuilder

ASSIGNMENTS  2001-2007

I began shooting for magazines and newspapers on a regular basis. I absolutely loved this work as it would allow me to enter the worlds of fascinating people and places. I would be assigned a subject and a story to photograph. I was shooting magazine covers and double page spreads weekly. I really enjoyed teaming up with Writers and collaborating with Art Directors.

Sometimes I was sent to take a portrait on location and other times I was off to cover an event or take a series of pictures that would accompany the story.

During this time I often shot with my 24mm wide angle lens.

I wanted to capture images that told the whole story and that would jump off the page. I would get right down on the ground and climb incredible heights to get my shot… (I still can’t believe some of the length I went to).

Dogshow, Weightlifters, Taxidermist and Teen Party were all very memorable assignments.  They have become part of my collection of pictures that have gained recognition ( won some awards) and are the impetus to my direction in storytelling within my photography.

dogshowTaxidermist teenparty

hands

HANDS 2004

I have lived in Vancouver most of my life and I truly love this city.

Like most Vancouverites, I have a hard time passing or driving by the Downtown East side. The area is noted for a high incidence of poverty, drug use, sex trade, crime and violence.

When I started studying photography I was convinced that photojournalism was my direction. At that time there were no photojournalism programs in Vancouver so I decided to create my own.

I studied Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology and Art History, along side my Photography classes.

I would go down to Hastings and Main St. and take photos, mostly from afar. It was one of my teachers, Mike Carter, who pointed out that getting closer would make for a more powerful image and I took note.

Many years later I was assigned to document the alleyways behind Hastings St.  There I would see a place closed off to everyone else.  A dirty, dark and secretive world.

I approached these men while they were smoking Crack Cocaine and asked them if I could take pictures, I promised that I would not include their faces.

When I saw the picture for the first time I thought that it was quite painterly and beautiful despite it’s sad context.

911

9/11  2001

Everyone has their own 9/11 story.

Where you were and how you found out.  We all remember the uncertainty, the shocking images on television and the heartbreak felt by all.

Jonas and I had a guest staying with us, Martin Himmel, a journalist from Israel.  We were all woken up at 5AM by a phone call for Martin.

We turned on the T.V. and saw the second plane fly into the second World Trade tower LIVE.

It was horrifying! I will never forget the images of those who jumped out, plummeting vertically at great speeds, through the wind.

The Western World, as we had known it, changed as we watched the NEWS for days, and were beside ourself with disbelieve and shock.

Martin became Global’s correspondent, specializing in Mid East politics, and I was sent, by Enterprise Magazine, to NYC (2 weeks later) to document the Police Officers and Firefighters who are members of the Credit Union system.

On the plane to NY I met a young man from Vancouver who was returning to his home in Manhattan.  He told me that he was away during the attack and was now returning to his apartment , a few blocks away from Ground Zero.

I somehow convinced him that I should come along and document his return.  Luckily He agreed.  I took this picture from his roof top.

It was quite late and I was loosing light, fast. I was devastated with what I saw before me.  I remember trembling.

The rest of my time in NY was quite sad and solemn.  Posted up LOST signs covered the streets of Manhattan, dust remained in shop windows and parking lots were filled with blown up cars.

New Yorkers were drained of spirit, the media was not welcomed as usual.

I photographed people observing Ground Zero.  I captured faces of disbelief and some of agony.

I’m looking forward to returning to NYC and seeing the 9/11  memorial monument and museum.

Margaret

TRACKRECORD  2002-2004

Hastings Park Racecourse was first opened in 1889.

Today it’s know for it’s stunningly beautiful North facing view of the mountains; where fluorescent clad jockeys mount lean racing machines.  Starting gates burst with a ringing clang and hoofs pound the dirt to a photo finish.

The regulars that come to the track have become fixtures, in this sub culture of horse racing and gambling.

The are characters unaffected by modernity.  They are authentic and unique.

I spent every weekend, for 2 years, at The Track.  I learned how to bet on the ponies and met some nice people.

I would start early, searching for interesting faces.   Then I would meet my new friends, who were teaching me how to bet.  In between races I would shoot portraits against the North facing blue/green wall that surrounded the track (it has since been painted).

Some of the subjects agreed to be photographed right away and others took some time to convince.  I was very determined, so I attempted weekly, and eventually got my picture.

In 2004 I showed the work at the Pendulum Gallery in Vancouver.

The series came to life in a  colourful display of these wonderful characters.

MARGARET was a dear woman, a teacher and wonderful friend to me at the track.  IVY (with the ice cream) was visiting from Victoria, Vancouver Island,  with her husband.  They were both having a lovely day enjoying ice cream cones when I met them.

 

icecream

Cinder

FALLEN PRINCESSES  2007-2009

Cinder- I pounded the pavement up and down Hastings st. looking for the right dive bar for Cinder to drink away her problems. 

The regulars at the Empress Bar were incorporated into the shot.  I used one strobe and worked with the available light.

When my daughter Jordan came to me and asked me if she was a Princess I said ‘yes of course’.

Where did her desire to wear the pink tu tu come from?  Certainly not from her mother who slips on jeans and boots daily.

It was Halloween at Jordan’s day care and every girl came dressed as a Disney Princess. I didn’t understand this phenomenon because I grew up in Israel in the early 70’s with biblical stories and Jewish fables. When my family emigrated to Canada I was busy learning the language and integrating. 

I never experienced Disney’s interpretations of the classic fairy tale stories. So I enjoyed discovering the Disney Princesses movies with Jordan. I made notes while watching, and asked Jordan questions throughout.

Around the same time my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I was devastated from the news and became quite depressed.

I began to think ; what if these Perfect Princesses had to deal with real life problems, like surviving Cancer? What if their Happily ever after didn’t work out? What happened to these woman as they began to age? What if they lost their kingdoms and had to make a blue collar living?

My first idea was Rapunzel, who’s long locks are so iconic.  She would most definitely loose her hair after Chemotherapy.  Would that shatter her identity and would she survive the battle with Cancer?

I went on to create scenarios for 10 Fairy Tale characters:  SNOW WHITE, CINDERELLA, RED RIDING HOOD, POCAHAUNTAS, SLEEPING BEAUTY (AURORA), ARIEL, PRINCESS AND THE PEA, JASMINE, RAPUNZEL and BELLE.

With the help of many talented creatives and a fantastic cast I was able to shoot the Fallen Princesses series on a meager budget over a 2 year period.

In 2009 The series was found on JPG.com and distributed on the web and overnight it went viral.  I was inundated with media requests, and my work was surrounded by heated discussion and controversy online.

Since then these works have been recognized for ‘their metaphorical and ironical messages, which transcends cultural borders and spark much conversation and accolades from academics, editors and bloggers around the world.’

They can be found in private collections, galleries and museums around the world.

VISIT THE SITE FOR THE FULL PROJECT EXPERIENCE 

dollhouse

IN THE DOLLHOUSE 2012

The Dollhouse series came to me after observing my daughters at play.

Zoe, my youngest daughter skipped from Princesses right into Barbies.  She wanted to play with her older sister and her friends who were busy decorating Barbie’s house and making dinner for Ken.

Why was Barbie always cooking dinner?…Isn’t she a working woman? Does Ken ever cook? Did Barbie and Ken ever argue?  Are they happy together in their pink casa?

I always thought that Ken was Barbie’s friend or brother. When did he become her husband?

Again I experimented with the ‘what if?’ concept and decided to create a narrative that would take a peak into the home of Barbie and Ken. In my story we follow Barbie as she discovers that her long time partner has lost interest in her and has found his ‘authentic self’ (he likes guys). The marriage falls apart and she is left devastated and eventually beheaded.

This was my most ambitious project to date.

An incredible group of volunteers refinished furniture and decorated various shades of pink rooms, and together we built a life size dollhouse, for our dolls to inhabit.

I couldn’t have asked for a more talented crew and cast, as they breathed life into these iconic plastic characters.

“The Dollhouse offers a profound commentary on the transient nature of beauty, the difficulty of marriage and the importance of authenticity.”

VISIT THE DOLLHOUSE SITE FOR THE FULL PROJECT EXPERIENCE

xx opening from dina goldstein on Vimeo.

 

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  1. Pingback: In the Dollhouse by Dina Goldstein › ISSUE NO. 206

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