The Photographic Alphabet: O is for Ori Gersht
By Erica McGrath
The literal idea of photography has always enthralled me because of its contradictory nature. Freezing a moment in time. Whether that moment is capturing life or death, love or hate, sadness or joy the photograph is capturing the paradox of it both happening and freezing in time. The Israeli photographer Ori Gersht is acutely aware of this paradox in the medium and focuses on it in his work. In his 2007 Mummery + Schnelle exhibit, Time after Time, Gersht examines the paradox between image and reality in a series of photographs of flower arrangements exploding.
Gersht captures the moment of the flower arrangements exploding at an alarming speed; one so fast that the human brain and eye cannot process it, only with the assistance of a camera are we able to see it in motion-yet frozen. The arrangement of the flowers calls to mind 19th century still-life paintings. Gersht is playing again with contradictions and juxtaposition: painting and photography, past and present, and still life transformed into motion.
While the flowers suffer from the destruction of the explosion the image blooms in creation. Flowers hold many meanings not limited to life, love, and beauty but in Gersht’s images the beauty of the flowers come in their metaphorical and physical death. The chaotic and violent scenes do not look so different from images of wars, people being shot and buildings exploding.
When I look at Ori Gershts' photographs Shakespeare's famous line comes to my mind, "These violent delights have violent ends". Photography is a violent artistic medium. Gersht harnesses it's ability to both create and destroy in his exploration of its truth. We will never be able to see these explosions in reality as they happen to quickly, but the camera can, so can we trust this is actually occurring? We can only rely on the camera's truth.