Essays, Reviews


In very youth lone on life’s sea was I cast,

And ever I languished for calm, secrecy;

I panted for light from the world’s body vast,

And something I knew not, like wine surged in me.

I searched hiding-places.There gazed I, meseemed,

I met the world’s eyes; there my friends were revealed

To me, and their secrets I grasped as they gleamed,

And close in my still heart their voices Isealed.

C.N. Bialik, Light, 1901

(Translated by Bertha Beinkinstadt)

                        It is surprising to what extent these words written by our National Poet Bialik more than a century ago, aptly characterize the unique artistic imprint of contemporary Budapest-based photographer Iván Benda. Indeed, Benda observes the ‘world’s eyes’ through the lens. Light emanates from the people populating his world, and that light, whether emitted from his black-and-white photographs or from the myriad of color prints, attests to his warm touch and human gaze.

An impressive gallery of figures - actors, directors, choreographersand dancers - lines the foyer of the magnificent National Theater in the city of Győr(a medieval city dating back to the thirteenth century); these figures return an intimate, inviting gaze. There, in the world of theater the observer photographer has found a wide scope for his art.

His camera (his loyal companion) captures the human drama in real time. When the hall dims and the whole world becomes a stage, the sudden, silent flash of the camera freezes the movement, thereby articulating the vivid dynamism. Even when he photographs an inanimate world or trees, he lends them a human dimension as if he were a choreographer of soft movement.

In particular, Benda strives to expose the light immersed in the body of the world, which he

  identifies in sequestered villages where, he maintains, the spirit of the Jewish shtetl has been

  preserved. Magical light inherent in the frayed bodies of old huts and sinuous alleys.

His yearning for a long-gone spiritual world may account for his attraction with Jerusalem, and specifically - with the alleys of Me’a She’arim There, in Jerusalem, the center of the world for the three monotheistic religions, Benda believes that one can feel the hidden light (Or Ganuz). Indeed his Jerusalemphotographs are endowed with a unique luminosity, very different from the gloomy European light of the Hungarian villages.

We would like to thank our friends in Hungaryand Israel:

Ms. Erzsebet Kigyós, Dr. János Hóvari, Mr. Lászlo Dvorszki, Mr. Noah Gil,  

Mr. Nathan Wolloch, Ms. Margalit Shacham, Mr. Leslie Rayne and Mr. Ehud Gross.

Last but not least, we would like to thank Iván Benda himself, who willingly agreed to come to

  Israelin these harsh days.

                                Ewa Lieber


Bet Ariela Cultural Center