Like a lot of things in life, this photography project started with a random image. Like a lot of times in life, sometimes you have to get away from a place in order to rediscover it. These two sentences basically initiated my on-going photography project called "Intimacy Under the Wires."
As a street photographer based in New York City, I hardly (if ever) come across the sight of laundry hung outside windows to get dry. It was a very common thing for me to see, however, when I grew up in Israel.
I was on a holiday visit to Israel on April 2010 when it all started.
I made plans to meet a friend at the flea market in old Jaffa and he was late. While waiting for him, I wandered the quiet back streets of this old and vivid neighborhood, when a woman's voice from an upper floor caught my attention. I looked up and saw her hanging her laundry outside the balcony. For some, it may be an ordinary chore, but I haven't seen that since I moved to Manhattan 10 years ago. I stayed there, standing in the street under the crumbling balcony, and observed her. Few minutes after she hung her clothes, a warm breeze from the sea came by and animated them.
I just had to take a picture!
After Tel Aviv, I had a stop in London for few days, and then there was the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, so I got stuck for a week there. I used the time to walk in the streets of London and take a lot of pictures. I was in Brixton, London, when I took this image, which is one of my favorites.
I think this image made me wonder about the people who wear these clothes. I really wanted to know more about them. What they do for a living? How do they look? But mostly wanted to know about their character. So I think this image really made me think further.
From looking at someone's laundry we can tell so much about them and their families without even meeting them. Some have all work shirts, some party dresses, some uniforms, children's clothes, tank tops, t-shirts, sexy lingerie and so on.
Laundry is something so personal and private yet so public. Looking at laundry seems so mundane, yet when you delve into it, you realize laundry tells of people's intimate lives. They hang their sheets, their night clothes, even their underwear for all to see. We would never expose these personal things if we were actually in them, would we?
This project, which was named by Phaidon "Intimacy Under the Wires," is not just about laundry.
It is about the differences among the cultures, the places and the people who wear these clothes. I love traveling to different places, taking portraits of city streets and their dynamics. I often say that I don't take people's portraits but cities'. Since that afternoon in Israel, I am drawn to images of laundry.
In every city there is that area, usually in old neighborhoods, where laundry is hung up outdoors. It amazes me to see how laundry is similar in different countries and cultures and yet so different. When I take a picture of laundry I always make sure to relate it to its location. Whether it's a street sign, a building, a window, I am also interested in the texture and colors of the buildings where the laundry is out to dry.
Another layer hidden or not hidden in this project, beside intimacy, is our urge toward voyeurism. We are all voyeurs. Photographers maybe more than others.
When I shoot these images, I am standing under the laundry wires and waiting for the right moment, when a breeze passes by and brings life, energy and rhythm to the clothes. I find laundry very intimate and sexy, and when I shoot, the act of looking up, is like the feeling of being under someone, unseen, a voyeur, a spy, like sitting under the boardwalk at the beach and watching people walk by, unaware. And this is actually what we photographers mostly do: spy with our cameras and tell stories with the images.