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September 29, 2014 9:45 pm

Vibrant ‘Humans of Tel Aviv’ Photo Series Struts City’s Multiculti Stuff (VIDEO)

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Humans of Tel Aviv: Erez Kaganovitz. Photo: Facebook

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Facebook.

Israeli street photographer Erez Kaganovitz is on a one-man vision quest to share what he says is the true face of the city, and country, he loves: Tel Aviv – and Israel.

“Usually when people think about Tel Aviv or Israel, they think about a war zone, or they think about the conflict with the Palestinians or they think about an ‘apartheid state,’ – but the truth is: most people don’t have a clue about what’s going on in Tel Aviv,” Kaganovitz told The Algemeiner on Monday.

Two years ago, he started photographing people, starting his own local Israeli brand of the wildly popular Humans of… photo collections, which began with New York, but quickly spread to cities around the globe.

His usually on-the-fly shots and even more posed photos feature unique faces, unlikely clothes, indie looks, unlikely poses, and exploit impromptu structural motifs and even props to depict a truly diverse and close-up-and-personal view of the denizens of Israel’s cultural and business center.

“On my page one can find ultra-Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Christians alongside gay, lesbians, and transsexuals; refugees from Africa who fled to Israel and are living in terrible conditions alongside the posh people of Rothschild Boulevard. You can see the fancier parts as well as the tougher parts of the city, because Tel Aviv harbors all kinds of different neighborhoods,” he said.

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz.

With a Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook page that Kaganovitz claims reach some 100,000 viewers monthly, he says he’s “got a big community of followers from Iran, from Jordan, and from Egypt” and elsewhere in the middle east, and pointed out that social networking is gaining him more viewers in once-remote – and hostile – areas.

“I get a lot of response from the Arab world telling me, ‘you know – I thought Tel Aviv was like planet Mars,'” he noted. But, ironically, after travels abroad with his exhibition, including visits to the US, India and European Union countries, he noted experiencing more than a little hostility from viewers in the real, and not virtual, world.

“When people hear I’m from Israel, you know – they start moving uncomfortably in their seats,” he recalled.

“‘Ahh, you’re from that place where there’s war and that occupation situation,'” he said, paraphrasing some comments he’s received. “Nobody knows the true face of the Israelis!” Kaganovitz added, with mild exasperation, but then laid out his goal:

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz.

“The idea is to show that we have a vibrant, civil society, and that we have not only soldiers, but poets, liberals, free spirits, amazing culture, and an amazing melting pot,” he says.

When asked, however, if his vision could be construed by critics of the Jewish state as glossing over Israel’s faults, he is adamant.

“I’m showing everything,” he asserted. “I show hipsters, the gay community, Eritrean and Sudanese immigrants that are coming to Israel and showing their stories,” among other sides to the city that are more often unseen by tourists and day-trippers from elsewhere.

He insisted that, “it’s really important to say that I’m not trying to whitewash – or ‘pinkwash’ – Israel and Tel Aviv,” referring to a term used by vehement critics of Israel, who allege that oppression against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are mitigated by PR-led glowing reports of a “gay-friendly” society.

“I’m showing the reality as it is, with all it’s difficulties,” he maintained, noting that his portrayal of what he said were oppressed groups, “gives a lot of authenticity to the page.”

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz.

Going further, Kaganovitz contrasted the relative tranquility of Israel to the maelstrom of carnage taking place throughout the region.

“In Tel Aviv you can do what you want, you can have your own political views, you can have your own sexual orientation, and as long you’re not doing anything against the law – nobody gives a s**t.”

While he’s not averse to setting up a Kickstarter or Indigogo campaign to crowdfund his traveling roadshow, he allowed that he’d be happiest if he could find a well-heeled backer or two, or an organization to underwrite his program, which he emphasized, was meant to show “the true face of Israel.”

And what does the future hold?

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz

Humans of Tel Aviv. Photo: Erez Kaganovitz.

“In the coming year I’m planing to do an exhibition in Berlin for the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between Israel and Germany.

“Because of the rise in antisemitism in Germany in the past year, the idea is to show the true faces of Israelis from the entire scope of society, and share their stories,” he said.

Noting that a hardcover coffee-table version of “Humans of New York” made the New York Times bestseller list, Kaganovitz said that, despite a tight schedule, he’s also planing to publish a book on the “Humans of Tel Aviv” this year, “so there is a lot going on.”

Watch a video of Kaganovitz, speaking with colleagues at i24 News:

[iframe width=”432″ height=”254″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/U77nmE0rvk4″ frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen>]

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