In Conversation with Lili Almog

Israeli born photographer Lili Almog (b.1961, Tel Aviv) is renowned for her intimate spiritual portraits of women cultural identities around the world. Lili moved to New York in the mid 80’s and began her career as a photojournalist for several international news publications focusing primarily on fashion and portraiture. Her artistic focus was on creating representations of the feminine body and psyche to capture the state of spiritual and cultural identity among women influenced by western.

She has been exhibited internationally and her photographs are included in permanent collections at The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The Art Museum, Lexington, KY; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; Musee de la Photographie in Belgium and numerous private collections.

Who (or what) inspires you?

My inspiration usually comes from a reaction and curiosity to a current event that caught my attention or could be stemming from reading a book or article in the paper. I then start the process of investigating deeper by researching into elements of history, social class, and anthropology; all combined with my personal experience of my own family roots. Being raised in sort off matriarchal family setting with an adventurous spirit that has spanned many worlds, I have been able to capture the identity of women set in their private spaces. When I am “Brain dead” a good inspiring art show can always save the week.

How did you get your first break as an artist?

As they say every overnight success takes just about 10 years…so basically hard work and one thing leads to another and suddenly people start to recognize your work.

I moved to New York in the mid 80’s and began my career as a photojournalist focusing primarily on fashion and portraiture while developing an artistic vision using a multi-disciplinary technique based on photography, my first solo show in New York in 2006 you could say was my break through.

Tell us what you are currently working on?

I am currently working on a series called The Space Within, which was previewed at Martin Browne Contemporary for the Head On Photo Festival …

The Space Within reflects upon the act of veiling women, which is rooted in many historical sources and cultures: prehistoric goddesses, western Christian medieval religious icons, Russian working women (Babushkas), and more recent expressions of Orthodox Judaism. By being shrouded in black, these women both reference and negate the distinction between specific cultures and faiths.

The obscured woman is transformed into a silhouette thus creating a barrier within the seasonal urban landscapes, instilling curiosity within the viewer over the missing information. Simultaneously, the strong presence of these silhouettes creating “negative space” fill our imagination with thoughts and fantasies, entreating us to actively participate in the visual interplay of personality and culture.

The veiled woman is immersed into an art historical context in The Drawing Room. Classically nude women have posed in drawing rooms for artists for decades, mainly for male painters; by placing the covered woman into this environment she is contradicting the expected, yet ultimately playing with the “male gaze”. She dominates the room through gestures displaying her individuality and makes the audience realize that nothing ever maintains its current state, shape or identity for very long.

The premier full show is set to be exhibited in David Tower Museum in Jerusalem in the upcoming Fall.

Top tips for an aspiring photographer who wants to exhibit their work?

My advice would be to have a strong, tight, and organized portfolio. Choose your photographs wisely and be prepared to talk about your projects coherently and confidently. Remember to be persistent; do not give up easily if your work is not immediately well received.

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