For British-Israeli photographer Ori Gersht, philosophy guides his photography.
“It is not about resolution,” Gersht told me recently. “They can never reconcile. They can never find a place where they can live together.” Gersht was not discussing genocide or some war-torn part of the world, topics that are often the subject of his photography. He was discussing ideas. Gersht is influenced by Walter Benjamin’s dialectical approach to thinking about time. “[Benjamin] had this great desire to crash [conflicting ideas of time] and try to bring them together,” Gersht said. “I keep coming across Benjamin’s writing, and it is always so relevant and so influential to me...I can talk about Benjamin quite a lot...He is always hovering there, always present.”
Like Benjamin, Ori Gersht is a Jewish intellectual who thinks about time, violence, and reality. While Benjamin used words to explore and communicate his ideas, Gersht uses photography and film. Gersht, recognized among the world’s greatest living photographers, is an artist with exceptional skill and vision. His work does something that only great works can do: they inspire reflection rather than demand it. His work visually seduces on first glance then haunts you afterwards, like a dream of a departed loved one. In our current era of grotesquely provocative art, Gersht’s work is a testament to an oft-forgotten truth: Good art shocks, great art whispers.