Alex Farfuri — an up-and-coming street photographer from Tel Aviv — shoots the moments that make you stop, pivot and do a double take. Like an elderly woman with striking red sunglasses, a pensioner in a wheelchair cheekily zooming past a stop sign, or a couple of old friends who’ve nestled down for a natter in a pair of worn out beach chairs. Street photography like this reminds us that, when you look — when you really look — you’re bound to find beauty in unexpected places.
Hello, Alex! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! Please tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get started on your photographic journey?
Hey! Thanks for featuring me. So, I'm 25 years old from Tel Aviv, originally from New York. I work as a freelance commercial/fashion photographer, and in my spare time, I wander the streets constantly taking photos. I am an observer with a high awareness of the small things that often go unnoticed. Whenever I tried to verbalize my observations, I always had a hard time expressing myself. When I was a teenager, my grandfather bought me a camera — and suddenly it was like I had a new language to express myself. Since then, this language is continuing to develop and evolve.
We love how — with all the untouched blemishes, leathery skin and bulging bellies — your photography is so unapologetically human. Do you have a particular intention in mind when you photograph everyday, un-airbrushed society?
It's all about being honest, putting a mirror in front of peoples faces, encouraging them to look more deeply. I’m bored with the typical standard of beauty that we see so much of on social media. I like pushing boundaries with my subjects, driven by authenticity, colour and a sense of humour — but never, ever laughing at my subjects.
There’s a very sweet humour that emanates from some of your images of elderly people: quirky outfits, poses and gestures. What do you hunt for when you're on a photo walk and what makes you hit the shutter?
I especially love how the older generations get to a point in life where they just don’t give a f***. They live for themselves, whereas my generation only cares about what others think. I always search for that one person who dresses solely for themselves. I get moved to approach and engage. To ask questions and know this person more deeply. The older generation has gone through life, and are untouched or innocent to my generations' constant state of awareness in projecting the perfect image of themselves. This is not real — after a while, it’s all the same, and this bores me.
You seem to have a real knack for capturing the authenticity of the people you photograph, but taking a stranger’s portrait can be a daunting experience: how do you approach people? What do you do to make them feel more relaxed?
First of all, I am aware of myself — I am a young woman — which is less threatening. This enables me to have an opening where I can approach my subject — from an elderly person to a child. Secondly — I smile. This leads me to introduce myself and ask my first question which is, “What’s your name?”. My second question is if I can take their picture. Usually this leads to a conversation where I try to find something that we have in common — a connection. Then comes the second photo, and that’s usually the one that I use. Most of all, I love sending them their photos — making people feel special and beautiful, and particularly with elderly people I want them to know — I noticed you.
Do you think it helps to be in a place brimming with colorful, urban life? Or do you think — to be a truly great street photographer — you should be able to find something inspiring even in seemingly dull and drab, everyday settings?
I think that, even in dull and drab situations, I’ll manage to find the color and beauty. Nothing is mundane. I am lucky to be living in one of the most vibrant and colorful cities in the world, but it doesn’t depend on the location — rather, the photographer behind the lens. The location is irrelevant — I see myself as a positive, colorful and humorous person, and I trust that this will come through. There is life and humanity in any setting.
Do you have a favorite place you like to go to when you're out taking photographs?
Yes! The beach, I am a beach bum – it's where I feel most relaxed and free, and I know that I am not alone in this, this love of the sea. No matter what people do in the outside world, what car they drive or clothes they wear, at the beach they bare it all, and in this nakedness, we are equals.
In this day and age, why do you choose film photography?
I had been photographing with a digital camera for over a decade, and the process became less special. I started taking things for granted — to take unlimited pictures rather than just the one. I also love the not knowing, the having to wait, the looking forward — this makes film more special. With digital, I can shoot tons of pictures of the same subject and it becomes difficult to choose, as opposed to film, where usually it’s just the one photo. I am drawn to the vintage, nostalgic feeling film provides — there is no comparison with a digital camera. I don’t leave the house without my camera, which is a Contax G1.
Do you have a favorite photo you’ve taken so far? If so, please can you tell us the story behind it and why it means a lot to you?
Amnon. As I have said before, its hard for me to choose, but what defines me most is the portrait I took of Amnon at the beach. I have been documenting my personal favorite beach, Frishman beach in Tel Aviv for about a year. While I was walking around with my camera, I heard a large man calling me from far away. As I approached him, he pulled up his shirt and said, “Take a picture of this!” This caught me unexpectedly and it surprised and delighted me. When I took out my camera, he stared at me dead on and with pure confidence. This moment was special. Normally people look at a man of his size with judgment and sadly, disgust. For me, to be able to let people look at him directly in his eyes, to see him raw and real, without judgement, revealed an unexpected beauty. After I took his photo, we spoke and discovered mutual commonalities. He gave me the initial push, which gave me the confidence to approach people.
Do you have any advice for street photography newbies?
You should find inspiration from other photographers that move you. Ask yourself why this photograph? Why am I drawn to this photographer? Emulate them, but at the same time try to find your own voice. And, just do it. Keep your camera with you always and be aware of your surroundings, knowing that magical moments come and go so fast. It’s less about the equipment and more about capturing a moment.
What’s on the horizon for you? Any cool projects coming up?
I have a new project that I am very excited about. It involves the refugee situation in my country. In Israel, as in the rest of the world, we have a hard time handling the refugee crisis. Our government wanted to deport our refugees — which are mostly from Eritrea and Sudan to Uganda. When this news broke, people came out in their masses, protesting with a clear message that the refugees have a place in our country. They succeeded, and the government cancelled the deportations. The people won, and their good intentions inspired me towards my new project.