Photographer captures that most minute of life's details: waiting
Street photographer Natan Dvir has turned his pet peeve into an art form.
When Israeli photographer Natan Dvir moved to America 10 years ago, the first thing he encountered was a line. Embarking off the plane at the airport, far away from the baggage claim, he waited in line to get through customs for three hours. "I was frantic that my suitcases would disappear. That's never fun."
Waiting in line has always fascinated the 46-year-old Dvir. "In a large part of the world, you don't have lines. Like if you go to India, there are no lines whatsoever. In most cases, it's survival of the fittest," he told From The Grapevine.
He started learning about the different aspects of lines: everything from their history to their cultural relevance. "I started exploring how the phenomena of lines even started." He's currently working on a new project about lines and photographing them throughout New York City. His goal is to take several hundred photos and choose his favorite ones for a future gallery exhibit.
The New York Times profiled Dvir and his new mission in a recent article, writing: "He found lines at bus stations, restaurants, bathrooms and outside boutiques offering limited-edition sneakers, where posting photos of the line on Instagram was half the fun. Lines were subcultures unto themselves. The lines in Midtown Manhattan were different from those in Flushing, Queens; the lines for Cronuts were different from those outside the Human Resources Administration."
Indeed, in Dvir's native Israel, waiting in line comes with other perks. The Mediterranean country recently passed laws that allow people over the age of 80 and pregnant women to skip to the front of just about any line.
"I hate waiting for anything," Dvir told us. "I won't wait for a restaurant. I just won't. I'll do my business somewhere else."
There's a voyeuristic quality to his photos in the "On Line" series, as well as his previous one called "Platforms," which captured images of people waiting for the subway. An exhibit of Dvir's "Platforms" photos will be on display in Belgium, Russia and Israel this November. He will also be giving an artist's talk at the upcoming "Photo Is:real" photography festival in Tel Aviv. The "Platforms" series has already garnered Dvir the Gold Medal prize in the Prix de la Photographie Paris competition.
Dvir – who received his MBA from Tel Aviv University and his MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York – has been a street photographer for much of his career. To celebrate Tel Aviv's centennial in 2009, he photographed a series of everyday residents in the coastal metropolis. One of the pictures was of the iconic cafe owner Sara Stern, who served up coffee and character for more than 60 years.
If he can get out of the studio, Dvir says he prefers the spontaneity of street photography. "You're not creating the situation, you're reacting to the situation. It requires more observation," he explained. "I am much more fascinated with the human experience and try to see things that go undetected or that we don't really think about that much. I try to shed a light on them. I try to create imagery that allows us to re-examine the way that we view things. The purpose of art is to make us think."
When he's not out photographing on the streets, he's hired by publications like New York Magazine and Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper to shoot photos for their articles. Some of his pictures also appear in the new coffee table book "Civilization: The Way We Live Now" which launched at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea. He's now an adjunct faculty member at the International Center of Photography and often gives public workshops about street photography.
As for what's next, Dvir revealed that he wants to focus on the concept of home. "I'm an immigrant to the U.S., the son of immigrants to Israel from Romania. And it occurred to me a few years back that I'm not exactly sure where my home is anymore," he said. "So I wanted to talk about what makes a home. That's more of a book project." He hopes to work on that with his father.
And, of course, he's not yet finished with his "On Line" project and hopes to keep adding photographs to that portfolio. When asked what's the one place he hates waiting in line, he doesn't miss a beat. "Everywhere," he said with a laugh.
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