Yoav Shmueli

Ma’ariv” Newspaper, 11.2.2000


Adi Nes’ photographs of soldiers capture and reinforce with great talent that bitter-sweet & obscured feeling of one who has sufficiently distanced himself, both chronologically and emotionally, from a period of shattered innocence.  Nes flings us unprotected into stormy, freezing waters, sketching this fragment of dream reality in the strong olive color of army uniforms, the soft pink of youthful flesh, the black of deep darkness, and in the white-yellow stains of light, as if he were a modern Caravaggio.


Nes’ condensation, his photographic minimalism intensify the strong colors and the multitude of details: every crease of clothing, scar on a young face, spot on a lip or line of sweat along the hairline.  Nes draws out such beauty and  innocence (he uses beauty to devastate), such intense atmosphere, youthful eroticism, and content which is layered with experiences, memories and loaded private moments.


For the most part, Nes’ exhibition in the Dvir Gallery is prodigious; he is, in my opinion, the most talented and fascinating photographer in Israel today;   this rare & triumphant combination of a loaded fragment of reality created by staging it down to the smallest and most attentive detail, produces a sort of extreme and piercing hyper realism; the photographs will forever appear larger than life, poetic and so very beautiful, stretching far beyond reality. Everything, from the worthy choice of setting, that is, the landscape, to the actor-models, the  abundant props planted naturally throughout the scene, as if called for and yet sometimes also like clues from a crime scene, as well as the spotlights which mask and envelop everything, and obtain the desired ambiance.


The atmosphere oscillates between sadness, romance and tranquility, as in the photograph of the resting-sleeping soldier on the bench, intense masculinity as in the photograph of soldiers sleeping in the bus, necks drooping , warmth and intimacy, as in the photograph of the soldiers sitting relaxed in the dark, shaded tent.


Nes takes his version of the mythological photograph of Yossi Ben-Hanan waving his weapon in the Suez Canal in the direction of exaggerated macho, drama and glamour, empowering the myth.  This photograph is taken in the Officers’ Pool in the Golan Heights. Here, Nes achieves a fantastic and bewildering visual effect when he depicts the water as black.


Nes’ personal interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” depicts an army meal which takes place on a long dining table. The atmosphere is clear and crisp, enhancing the many components of the situation, the numerous soldiers, their alert and intensive preoccupation during the meal,  the culinary army offering on the table, and the pairs and pairs of legs under the table, in heavy army boots.


In each case, the observer’s connection to the photograph, to the situation depicted, is immediate, strong, hypnotic. On one hand, the photograph is demanding, and on the other, it is generous, giving. Aside from the fact that Nes is of course an astute anthropologist of the local Israeli,  he is mostly interested in the aesthetic aspect of that existence. Essentially, Nes will always remain the producer, the aesthete, the dreamer, forever distant from the reality he has created. He will remain unsatisfied, observing from a distance,  yearning to touch – this being part of the painful homosexual existence - this gap between desire and the hallucination, and the realistic alienation which produces a barrier.


Nes got much of his knowledge of art from Carravaggio. Hence, the beauty portrayed here is innocent, tender, erotic, romantic, but not perfect, always slightly tainted, a mixture of beauty and wound, or even ugliness: strength and weakness.


The piercing, stomach-churning moment in the photographs arrives with the understanding that the sleeping soldiers are in fact also dead soldiers. With his fantastic ability, Nes presents a death which humbles, but it is also relaxed, at one with its fate, almost romantic, and painfully beautiful. This is a truly rare photographic achievement.