Boris Carmi

Boris Carmi
Born Boris Winograd, 1 January 1914, Moscow – 18 September 2002, Tel Aviv

Boris Carmi was born on January 1st, 1914, in Moscow. His mother died when he was a child, and his father when he was 16 years old. As a young boy he left the country of his birth and moved in with relatives in Warsaw, and from there began his wanderings over several countries. In 1933 he began studying ethnography in Paris, which is when his life as a photographer began.

He arrived in Mandate Palestine in 1939 and worked in agriculture as a source of income, but soon shifted to photography. He is considered one of the pioneers of Israeli photojournalism.

During World War II he served in the British Army in Italy and Egypt, where he served as an aerial photographer and cartographer. He also did the same for the Hagana. Carmi was the first photographer of the Israeli army newspaper BeMahaneh, and he documented the War of Independence in 1948 with impressive pictures.

As one of the few active photographers of this period, he captured for posterity key historical moments, construction projects, the waves of immigration and transit camps, wartime scenes and the conflicts of that decade. His photos captured the sense of rootlessness and fresh start of the times, the desire for normalcy, but also the fear of the future and cultural integration problems. Through his unpretentious style, he coined the visual image of the early days of the State of Israel through photos known worldwide.

Carmi worked for various newspapers and magazines, gave reports of immigrants and their new beginning, and also striking portraits of artists and politicians. From 1952 to 1976 he mainly worked as Chief Editor of a daily newspaper and was a leading figure in the Israeli Press Association. During the 1956 war with Egypt, he tended to photograph the deserted landscape of the Sinai Peninsula with Egyptian soldiers’ bootprints rather than casualties or scenes of destruction.

In 1959 Carmi held his first solo exhibition in Tel Aviv – in the following decades he produced several further exhibitions and publications, including volumes of portrait and landscape photography and a children’s book entitled The wonderful adventures of the flamingos. From 1960, he also started to photograph international subjects. He was given lifetime achievement awards from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He continued producing photographs until shortly before his death. However, his first solo exhibition in Europe was held posthumously, at the Berlin Academy of Arts in 2004 and at the Jewish Museum Frankfurt in 2005 – this showed over 100 images, under the patronage of Johannes Rau and Moshe Katzav.