Yael Ben-Zion

Yael Ben-Zion
2016 Annual Juried Competition
Honorable Mention

The work samples submitted are from Intermarried, a long-term project which considers the notion, and questions the implications, of intermarriage. The idea for the project sprouted from a short-lived campaign of the State of Israel that targeted Jews who were ‘lost’ to intermarriage. While uncommonly explicit in its message, the underlying sentiment behind this campaign is not uncommon. Being myself intermarried, this made me think of the many challenges faced by couples who choose to share their lives regardless of their different origins, ethnicities, races or religions. I initiated the project by contacting an online parent group in Washington Heights, my NY neighborhood, inviting couples who define themselves as ‘mixed’ to participate. The people who responded to my post gave me access to their homes to photograph themselves, their children, and the spaces they live in. Through layered images and revealing texts, mostly culled from a questionnaire I asked my subjects to fill out, I constructed a subtle narrative that deals with the complex, multifaceted issues posed by intermarriage.The images in Intermarried are not straightforward portraiture or documentation, but rather intimate moments and depictions, which allude to the personal experiences of my subjects within a wider social and political context. Moreover, the project juxtaposes interfaith and interracial marriages in order to make viewers re-think their own preconception. And this is maybe the main idea behind Intermarried – to create a platform for thinking and talking about issues that are very personal but have vast social and political implications.

Yael Ben-Zion is a New York-based artist whose work often considers the relationship of the personal to the political. Yael was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Israel. She is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yale Law School and the International Center of Photography. Yael’s work has been exhibited in the United States and in Europe and is included in the MTA-Artists Unite Subway Elevator Poster Project. Yael is the recipient of ICP’s Directors’ Scholarship Award, the International Photography Awards and grants from NoMAA and the Puffin Foundation. In 2007, her photograph Crash was selected for the cover of American Photography 23. Yael’s first monograph, 5683 miles away (Kehrer, 2010), was selected as one of photo-eye’s Best Books of 2010 and for the PDN Photo Annual 2011. It was also a nominee for the German Photo Book Award 2011. Intermarried (Kehrer, 2013), her second monograph, was selected for American Photography 30 and featured in a variety of publications, among them, the NY Times Sunday Review, PDN Magazine and the Forward.

Artist’s website: www.yaelbenzion.com