Biblical Stories

 The main characters in Adi Nes' new series, Biblical Stories, are street people, the homeless, the lower class, people who find themselves at the margins of society.

 In previous series Nes dealt with issues of identity: specifically masculinity and Israeliness. In this new series, he deals with people who have lost their identities.

 In previous series the soldiers, for example, were photographed in wide open spaces or in military camps, the youth were photographed in peripheral, dark neighborhoods, and the prisoners in a studio mock-up of a closed prison. This time though, the backdrop for Biblical Stories is the sprawling city whose inhabitants are run-down and whose streets are empty. The reality for these characters is miserable, depressing, and hopeless.

 Yet these are not just any people. Each one of the subjects of this new series is based on a Bible story: Abraham is pushing Isaac—both are homeless—in a shopping cart filled with recyclable plastic bottles; Elijah is likewise homeless, an old man laying on a bench with all his personal belongings bundled in a plastic bag under his head; Noah is drunk and naked, rolled-up beside a DVD rental machine; Hagar is a street beggar; Jonathan is a battered boy in David's arms—a street urchin.

 The people Nes chose to photograph are not really street people, but actors. They portray anti-heroes and represent Biblical characters at the low points of their lives.

 This new series of Adi Nes' photographs expose the low point to which Israeli society has sunk after the revolutionary transition from striving to be a utopian, egalitarian society with socialist values and an ethos of caring for one another, to a conquering, capitalistic, alienating society in which deep and unnecessary social gaps abound.

 By juxtaposing identity-less, homeless figures against the mythical foundation of Bible stories, Adi Nes contrasts the current Israeli reality with the history and mythology of the Chosen People and projects these worrisome images of Israel's social reality in the 21st century back onto the nation's past.

 Thus, therefore, is the social reality of Israel in 2006 portrayed as an entity wiping-out its own illustrious past.

 Abraham & Isaac -  This photograph recalls Duane Hanson's pop sculpture Supermarket Shopper, 1970. In Hanson's work the woman was made-up (cosmetically) to the point of being ridiculous, and portrayed pushing a cart full of food. Here, Abraham is portrayed as a neglected, penniless, and scruffy man, pushing a supermarket shopping cart full of bottles for recycling, upon which his young son, Isaac, lays serenely. It's not coincidental that Nes' Abraham resembles Caravaggio's Abraham. While in Caravaggio's version the boy is crying out, in Nes' photograph the lad's silence reveals his acceptance of his fate.

 Noah – The Bible tells that after Noah left the Ark, God gave him grapes (and, consequently, intoxicating wine). In his drunken stupor he rolled around naked and was discovered in this undignified state by one of his sons.  Michelangelo painted this scene in which the drunk Noah is surrounded by his three sons. Adi Nes decided to situate the naked, uncircumcised figure beside DVD dispensers, thereby obtaining two goals. First, he emphasized the alienation expressed by this image. Secondly, he intimates that we, the viewers, who look at this naked man, are engaging in the same sin his sons committed. Apparently, we, the viewers, need Art as an intermediary in order to see the street people we try not to see.

 Job – In this photograph an old man who could look like Job stares straight into the camera with a twisted mouth gasping for a breath of air. Adi Nes' father died of lung cancer a year before this picture was taken. The person photographed here is Adi's uncle, his father's brother; the two looked very much alike. Nes relates how he worked with his uncle throughout the session in order to get his uncle to look like his father, who fought for every last breath of his life. Unfortunately, shortly after these pictures were taken, Adi's uncle also succumbed to lung cancer.

 The tension in the pictures is based on the conflicts between the difficulty of daily life on the one hand, and the myth of the Chosen People on the other and how they're represented by classical painters like Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt and others.

 In the process of this work Nes was influenced by the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio. Caravaggio was against the classical, idealistic way in which Biblical stories had been painted up to that time. He took common people from the street and used them as models in order to paint more realistically rather than idealistically as was the custom until his time. He thus created new interpretations and iconography which garnered him scathing criticism by the Church.

 As a type of gesture to this maligned yet also appreciated painter, Adi Nes transforms his biblical characters—which have been sources of admiration and holiness—to people on the margins of society: homeless street people, people who have experienced economic and social trauma. Nes is trying to emphasize the marginal footprints, poverty, misery, distress and thereby create characters who are anti-heroes.

 When the first photographers arrived from Europe and the United States to photograph the Holy Land a tradition developed in which biblical stories were the basis for tourist pictures. Yet even in the 19th century marginal people become photographic models, while in the contemporary photographs of Adi Nes models play the parts of marginal people.

 This style is similar to what Adi Nes has employed in earlier works which were first brought to light in Vogue Hommes International (2003) when instead of dressing models in name brand fashions, he put the name brand fashions on ordinary people.