Situated in the fine line between photojournalism and fine art, the practice of Pavel Wolberg (*1966, Leningrad former USSR; lives and works in Tel Aviv-Yafo) represents a uniquely uncompromising approach to realism. Wolberg’s photographs encapsulate a kind of contradiction we experience in our everyday life: each image is seemingly easy to describe – where it takes place, the elements depicted, the scenario captured – and yet, once analyzed more closely, we realize that the essence of each image is hard to pin down. The lack of any compromise in the way Wolberg’s pictures are taken – indeed, one has to marvel at the sheer courage and ingenuity that they entail – is matched only by the level of complexity contained therein.
The kind of paradoxical situation through which Wolberg’s images should be analyzed undermines notions such as that of straightforward documentation, emblematic of the field of photojournalism. Instead, Wolberg insists on the aesthetic experience, which renders such notions simply obsolete – unless they are understood in relation to the artist’s own position, personal history, identity, and sensibility. Only then can new and unforeseen meanings emerge and generate new forms of understanding and insight.
Wolberg’s solo exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo focuses on his revelatory body of work, the panoramic photographs. Shot between 2007 and 2019 in various parts of the world, these photographs rethink the dispersal of images in the digital era. Wolberg’s employment of the Hasselblad XPan II camera, for instance, which is currently out of stock, allows the artist to create images that can only be experienced in print format, due to the fact that their format and proportions do not fit any screen. In addition, the sites Wolberg chooses are often hardly accessible, as they are either too remote or dangerous for being zones of civic conflict. The exhibition includes photographs taken in Israel, Palestine, Ethiopia, and Ukraine, printed in panoramic format – their width is double their height – and presented directly on the wall, unmediated.
Through the immediacy of their display on adhesive of scanned film, and the quality of detail that the large digital prints enable us to see, Wolberg emphasizes the pictorial quality of the photographs: their large horizontal format, as well as their compositions and themes, echo in particular the genre of history painting and its heroic depictions of figures in the landscape, wars, and conquests. The exhibition, therefore, conveys a unique faith in the power of the “photographic eye,” one that allows us to reflect upon reality, history, image-making, and, ultimately, art.
“Pavel Wolberg: Panoramas,” 2023.
View of the exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Photo: Eyal Agivayev
Pavel Wolberg: Panoramas
April 1, 2023
February 2, 2023