This picture is an old one. It was one of my earliest in color. And one of the first that I scanned to a digital file. It had to be printed just right to get the effect that I wanted. I remember the first time I published it on the internet. I had scanned it on my desktop, and then looked at it on my laptop… and it was different. I was forced to reset the gamma on my screen in order to properly appreciate the picture. I was discovering the disadvantages of looking at art on a computer. Some images are easily appreciated… and others are tricky. A print is a little easier. You make the print, and pass it around, or it’s hanging on the wall, and everyone sees pretty much the same thing. But when looking at the same image on a digital device, every screen tells a slightly different story. Though really, even a print can cause problems. There are certain difficult pictures that have to be seen in just the right light to get their message across. A tungsten lamp brings out the warm shades of the picture. Fluorescent light will emphasize green. And now with the new ‘economic’ light bulbs, the color spectrum is completely different. A fine printer will shade his print in such a way that it looks best in sunlight, though preferably not in direct sunlight. I used to show my work to customers in my studio near a window, with a translucent curtain across the window.
For me, this image is a reminder of what Jerusalem was like when it was still a small town. Even as late as the sixties, most of us were poor, but we didn’t feel poor. A refrigerator was a rare luxury item then. People had ice boxes. Every morning, you’d hear the ice man making his rounds with horse and wagon, shouting, ice… ice… ice… And we would come out of our homes with a ceramic covered metal tray, and buy a chunk of ice. When I moved to another neighborhood, there was another ice man who had a three wheeled motorcycle with which he pulled the wagon. I remember buying a record player back in those days. Since I already had a radio, they sold me just the deck, which then connected to the amplifier and the loudspeakers of the radio. It cost less that way.
In the picture, you can see that the houses were nicely built, from stone. They had the beauty of simple structures, tastefully constructed. But then, as families grew bigger, folks added rooms, and used whatever materials were most readily available. They used sheet metal to make the walls, and wood to make the seams. There were quite a few balconies made of wood. Since then, this neighborhood has been ‘gentrified’. The houses have been enlarged and look quite elegant. The prices have gone sky high too.
But the strange thing about our rich lives, is that people are less satisfied now than they were then. These days, people have nice cars, and more toys than they have time to play with; huge flat screens, and the latest appliances from Japan, China, or the States. And of course, everyone has a refrigerator. It goes without saying. But a lot of people are dissatisfied. Some folks don’t even know their neighbor’s name. In those days of minimal possessions, we were happier. We made do with very little. There was no television, but people would congregate and sing together. In our neighborhood, in the summer, most of the neighbors would bring chairs and tables outside on Saturday nights, and we’d listen to the radio together. There were some specially talented individuals who’d amuse all of us with their stories or songs.
There was one neighbor, known for his noodle cake, and another, for her punch… and two brothers who used to make dry wine. We were very proud of their wine, though all we did was drink it. And it didn’t have a name… we just called it ‘dry’ to differentiate it from the sweet kiddush wine. There was this guy who had a truck, which he parked near his home at the end of the work day. Sometimes, on a holiday, he’d load up some of his neighbors on the truck, all of us sitting on pillows, and we’d go to the sea shore, and marvel at the power of nature… When someone got into trouble, everyone around who could, tried to help.
And there were dogs that you’d see here and there, back then. But much fewer than we see today. We knew they were man’s best friend… but they were a rarity. There were those who felt uncomfortable in their presence. Jerusalem was cat town then as it is now. With affluence, we’ve had an increase in the popularity of dogs.