You should remember Nir Arieli from our NUDE Collection. Born in Israel, and now living and working in New York, he began working as a military photographer and developed into a fine artist with a focus on dance, motion, and human substance, as well as portraiture. Enjoy a short interview.
Nir´s work in collection 1: here
KALTBLUT: You began photographing as a military photographer. This is quite something! Was it tough? How has it influenced you?
Nir: Since the Israeli military is a mandatory one, you get to see a really wide range of types and attitudes there. As a military photographer I saw all the layers of this huge microcosm. I saw people who were in love, who felt important and lucky to have a valuable mission, but I also saw people in great depression and distress, and I saw combat fighters with the most fragile souls. During that time I developed an essential part of the way I photograph people and approach a portrait today. I look for the sensitivity and gentleness in each of my subjects, I’m also seeking these qualities in my approach and in the dialog created. The kind of dance I like to watch the most is one that is very physical and exhausting, I like to see sweat flying all over. It may look aggressive but it exposes the dancer in their most vulnerable state, it’s beautiful and the contrast is similar to the concept of giving guns to teenagers with gentle hearts.
KALTBLUT: Have you always wanted to turn to art, and to photographing dancers? How did you turn to that?
Nir: I was a socially awkward kid who knew he wanted to be an artist but it took me a while to figure out which medium does it for me. Later on, I realized that the camera can be used as a social wheel chair for me and an excuse to connect with people. The photographs I was making were the foundation in developing a self esteem, after teenage years of feeling invisible. My art serves, to this day, as the most prominent base for my mood and my self confidence.
The journey with dancers started when I moved to NYC to pursue my BFA, at the same time my cousin started his studies in the Juilliard School’s dance division. I started using him and his friends for assignments and I fell in love with their talent, dedication and their passion for the act of performance (on the stage as well as in front of the camera). In the past four years we have formed a relationship of trust and respect which is crucial to the work. Later on I learned more about dance and I was able, in collaboration with them, to make work about it.
KALTBLUT: What fascinates you most when photographing someone dancing? What does dance mean to you?
Nir: The truth is that I can’t dance. For me, dance is impossible and dancers just don’t make sense. They are non-human creatures: their odd physical abilities, dreamlike and nightmarish at the same time, fascinate me. My models have the ability to translate my words into movements in a really brilliant way. I have no actual experience in dance but I understand that contemporary dance is much less about being familiar with a certain physical vocabulary and more about being able to translate ideas and atmospheres and feelings into a movement. Making up the vocabulary, it’s a beautiful concept.
KALTBLUT: I love how consistent your work is! All your male portraits and projects are real art! Why do you choose to photograph men?
Nir: Thank you so much. I choose men because it’s what I know and who I am. I believe, when you take a portrait, that you have to know something deep about your subject. Something they haven’t told you because you’ve never met before, but it needs to be intimate, and set the ground for vulnerability, and an honest moment. In women there’s something that I feel like is not accessible to me, and it might be because of my sexual identity, I never really shared intimacy with a women. I’m photographing what’s familiar but my work is also about desire, admiration and attraction. There is a tension that is required to make every moment of the portrait happen, and that’s also the name of this project: