Nir Arieli launched his career as a military photographer for the Israeli magazine Bamachane, before receiving a scholarship to pursue a BFA at New York’s School of Visual Arts; he graduated with honors. Nir’s photographic passion is within the portraiture and dance fields. He is an admirer of gentleness, beauty that embodies a sense of conflict and physical intelligence. Nir has received multiple awards and nominations. His work has been published, exhibited and collected in the USA, Europe and Israel, and his New York clients include the Juilliard School, The Alvin Ailey school, The School of Visual Arts, Time Out NY, Pontus Lidberg, MADboots, FJK Dance, Shannon Gillen + Guests, Hewman collective, Company XIV and The People Movers Dance Company, among others.
#1: You’ve stated that you “feel engaged with dancing through your work”. What does dance mean to you?
If I can say something personal, I don’t dance at all, not even at a party. I admire dancers because they can do what seems to me impossible. The training process of a dancer teaches the body to do things that it can’t do naturally. I observe it like a child, like it’s a super power. Diving into the word of contemporary dance, I realized that I can make a dancer move in a certain way without physically showing him how to do it, but just using words. In some sense, I am dancing through my subjects.School was an immersive experience for me, I practically lived.
#2: You mostly work with men dancers. Why is that? Would you like to photograph women?
Every once in a while I try to photograph women and I feel that I’m not getting as good as a result. When I’m thinking about it, I believe that in order to make a really good portrait of someone you need to know something very private about them. With men I have that because I am one, and women in some sense are inaccessible to me on this level. I wouldn’t want to do just one thing for my whole life. You let the dancers improvise in front of your camera.
#3: Do you have a concept in mind of what you want to capture? What fascinates you more about this?
In my project “Tension” I wanted to make something that uses the qualities of the two art forms – dance and photography. Photography is all about the one decisive moment and dance is necessarily about a collection of moments. In Tension I’m merging a few moments, a movement, into one image. Because I’m not a dancer or choreographer and my vocabulary was limited, I would give the dancers the feelings or adjectives that I would want to have in the movement language, sometimes in really abstract descriptions. The dancers I work with are not just really good performers; they are also really smart and trained in taking words and turning them into physical form. This is something that happens a lot in contemporary choreography as well. As opposed to classical dance where the dancers had to repeat the movement the choreographer prepared in advance, in the contemporary sphere the dancers are often collaborators and interpreters of the choreographers instructions. I am trying to think about it in a similar way.
#4: What kind of feelings would you like to create to the viewers of your art-pieces?
I feel like my role as an artist is to create something interesting and raise questions, I don’t have an agenda to educate or predetermine the impact the work has on the viewers. When someone spends more than one moment in front of my work, I consider it a success. There is one choreographer, her name is Sharon Eyal, and every time I see her work something moves inside of me, almost physically moves.If I ever get to give my viewers a similar feeling, I’d be the happiest man.
Interview by Eva Gouvianaki Photo by Asaf Einy