October 5 – November 5, 2011
The Hebrew word Tamim translates as â€œpureâ€, â€œunblemishedâ€, and â€œcompleteâ€. Photographer Zack Balber offers his unique, incongruous twist on Tamimâ€™s denotation in his first solo exhibition at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. Using portrait photography as his vehicle, Balber intimately uncovers the camouflaged identity of some of Judaismâ€™s most unfamiliar Jews.
Born and raised in gritty inner-city neighborhoods throughout the country, both the photographer and many of his subjects were void of Jewish role models. Instead of praising their ancestry, they concealed their culture behind tattoos and vanity in a pursuit to assimilate. These men portray themselves as Bear Jews, the fighters, and the Sunday-School delinquents: they are the truly unconventional Jews.
Relocated to the close-knit Jewish community in Miami, Balber began to reconnect with his roots. During his cultural rediscovery, he encountered men who were similarly unorthodox yet retained that indefinable Jewish spark. Interestingly, when approached with the opportunity to be photographed as Jews, these ordinarily recalcitrant men let go of their powerful exteriors and embraced the vulnerability of portrait photography. When the participants donned the yarmulke that Zack Balber wore for his Bar Mitzvah, each of them expressed a spiritual reconnection to their culture, captured within these photographs.
Balberâ€™s portraits of men who are ostensibly Tamim–proud, unashamed, and wholeâ€”exquisitely reveal their insecurity, vulnerability, and fear of exposure. Although their appearances may initially distract us from their inner reality, the tattoos and bling cannot obscure their heritage of Hebrew day school, spiritual mentors, or even the Holocaust. Through the courage and trust of both Zack Balber and his sitters, the photographer developed a rapport that catalyzed his sense of community and brotherhood. In an introspective discussion on his body of work, Balber noted, â€œthat religion is far more than skin deep and that a connection with G-d can always be reignited.â€ Despite his initial rejection of Judaism, Balberâ€™s portraits led him to rediscover the culture that is now his lifeline.
Click below to read an interview with Zack Balber on his upcoming exhibtiion Tamim:
Image: Zack Balber, Pimpy Pat (Color), 2011, Lambda Print, 46 x 66 in.Thank you for using Soul Of Miami!