Bar-Am, Micha

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BAR-AM, MICHA (1930– ), Israeli photographer. Born in Berlin, Bar-Am immigrated with his parents to Palestine in 1936. He joined the Haganah and the Palmaḥ, and after the War of Independence became a member of kibbutz Malkiyyah and later of kibbutz Gesher ha-Ziv. Bar-Am began his photographic work with the 1954 archeological expedition to the Judean Desert led by Yigael *Yadin. His next large photographic venture, during the Suez Campaign in 1956, led to his first book of photographs, Across Sinai. This was followed by a nine-year engagement as staff photographer with the Israel army weekly Ba-Maḥaneh. In 1967 Bar-Am covered the Six-Day War with Cornell *Capa, and later was associated with the prestigious Magnum Agency. From 1968 he was a regular contributor to the New York Times. In 1974 Bar-Am embarked on a new phase of work in photography as curator and photo-historian, first at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and from 1977 until 1992 with the Tel Aviv Art Museum, where he staunchly promoted Israeli photography. He also established the first photography department at the Israeli Museum. His works are exhibited in various museums, such as the Israel Museum, Tel Aviv Museum, and Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2003 he was awarded the Israel Prize.

Perhaps Israel's most prominent contemporary photographer, Bar-Am had his pictures praised for values that extended beyond reportage and photojournalism into the world of esthetic journalism. According to one critic, "Bar-Am's bromides transcend the realistic aspect of photography by wrapping the event into a comprehensive esthetic package." Another point of synthesis in Bar-Am's work was related to the particular conditions of his work and existence. The New York Times called him "a deeply committed Israeli and a fiercely independent journalist." Bar-Am expressed concern about being pigeonholed as a "combat photographer," being deeply interested in human beings and their behavior. He sought to take photographs that contain all the information related to a certain event but that are also elevated above the event.

Bar-Am was a brilliant student of world photography and succeeded in assimilating its achievements despite his lack of formal photographic education. He created his own unmistakably recognizable personal style. This transmits a strong sense of directness, an intuition for immediacy as well as for formal compositional qualities. His pictures prove that in photography a work of art maintains it umbilical link to its original context.

[Yeshayahu Nir]