Photographer Reli Avrahami and journalist Avner Avrahami have spent the last ten years documenting Israeli family lives. Travelling throughout the country, they landed at the homes of couples living alone, with their children, or with a pet, took their photos and wrote their stories. These were then published in the Weekend edition of Haaretz, and later in the pages of Maariv. Now, the photos and the adapted texts were recently exposed on the wall of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
The Avrahamis, a family unit in itself, never conducted a preliminary research on the households they chose. That was one of their first principles. Their leading criterion was its distance from the centre – the further the better, the assumption being that everyone has a story to tell. Still, most of the families willing to participate came from Tel Aviv.
Originally, the series presented families alone, even if the adopted definition of family, to begin with, is a fluid one, reflecting how the make-up of this social unit can vary and how it has changed over time. Later, due to popular demand, the Avrahamis began to document all groups living under one roof, including roommates, inmates, soldiers in a unit, and so forth.
The proceedings are described by the couple as follows: “We begin with the photo-shoot (no obligation to smile), we move on to an exploration of the house (Israeli-made couches), and then we sit down to talk (Instant coffee, half a sugar).” The interview begins with questions “about the home and the occupations of all household members, moves on to biographies, the romantic meeting point, and the marriage. We then continue with a description of daily life, and finish with dreams, beliefs, fights, reconciliations, missed opportunities, and nostalgia.”
The series made by the couple is a sober collage of lives, simple and unadorned. There is no pretence of joy, no placated smiles, but there is also seldom commiseration. It is an enumeration of the many little, banal details that make up the life of an individual and of his/her closest social environment. A straightforward description of the abode, its rooms, its surroundings. A plain discussion of occupations, timetables, histories, and aspirations. The stories told are not always bright and easy, but then again, lives seldom are.
The result is a collection of accounts and details, moving by their humanity, and sometimes by their dead-honest fragility. The photos and stories belong to living beings, made of flesh and bone, telling the everyday structure of their lives. And while they are open and raw, sometimes painfully so (if only by their unabashed frankness), they also emphasize how far we are from truly unearthing the essence of the human life and how impossible it is to find the key that will decode an individual the way we decode the biological building blocks of the enveloping body.
And perhaps it is also a journey in search of the soul, whichever definition we wish to give the word, of the family and of the individual. They are there, human beings, and those in their closest proximity and intimacy. Opening the door to their house and telling their lives, they bare their soul for our inspection. If we look very closely and pay attention, we may even catch a glimpse.
The exhibition closes on February 28, 2013. See also: http://www.eretzmuseum.org.il/e/231/