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[ART PLOSHADKA] Интервью с фотографом Ильей Рабиновичем / Interview with Photographer Ilya Rabinovich

February 9, 2010

Илья Рабинович – голландский фотограф, родом из Кишинева.                     Интервью проводилось при помощи скайпа  в феврале  2010 года.

[01.02.2010 16:15:21] Fiodorova tatiana: Илья, немного расскажи о себе, в двух словах, и почему именно фотография тебя увлекла.

[01.02.2010 16:16:36] ilya rabinovich: I was born in Kishinev in 1965 and we immigrated to Israel in 1973…I immigrated alone to the Netherlands in 1998… I started practice photography after I failed two years in mathematics-physics faculty in Hebrew university in 1987-88… I was looking to do something creative, and I knew that I was not really good in painting… In that time my understanding about art was related to a medium I should do…

At the year 1988 the medium of photography seemed more suitable for me, because it was about perception and technique… I was looking  for a medium to heal myself…I had a lot of difficulties in relation to my parents, being immigrant and the Israeli society…I could not really find a place that I like…

It was a tool for self defining…to find my position…to say   I am existing.

In this self search I made almost a linear progression…I was photographing self portraits later started to photograph myself and my parents than my parents than the house of my parents than houses of other people that in some way reminded me our house and only the started to photographs interiors of institutes…I was ‘making my world bigger…’

[01.02.2010 16:28:43] Fiodorova tatiana: Илья, ты сам постигал искусство фотографии?

[01.02.2010 16:28:52] ilya rabinovich: no I studied in a lot of schools…

[01.02.2010 16:29:02] Fiodorova tatiana: какие, например

[01.02.2010 16:29:07] ilya rabinovich: In year 1989 my first school was in Jerusalem , it was an evening course and it was probably my most intense year of taking photographs…after that in year 1990 I moved for one year to north of Israel to Haifa and studied in Wizo College and later was admitted to  Bezalel Academy of Design and Art, department of Photography Jerusalem , studied there 1991-1994;  Between 1998-2000 I was participant  in the Royal academy of visual arts in Amsterdam, it is an international post graduate institution (

[01.02.2010 16:32:25] Fiodorova tatiana: Почему ты начал  свое творчество  с портретов людей.  Почему именно человек был в фокусе твоего внимания. А последние работы наоборот, документируют или фиксируют пространства в отсутствии людей.

[01.02.2010 16:35:35] ilya rabinovich: when I started with photography, my main focus was me and the world around me in the direct sense…I had an idea that ‘a good’ image can give a certain truth about the inner state/psychological situation or express the character of the subject being photographed…I was attracted to photograph people because it gave me ‘the license’  connect, in the sense that it was ok to look at those people…I photographed a lot also friends of mine and on the streets of Jerusalem…from the start I realized that in order to be able to ‘read’ the meaning of a photograph, I as a viewer was identifying with the protagonist being photographed …later this process became a ‘narrow cage ‘ and I was busy looking for other ways understanding  the medium …

[01.02.2010 16:36:36] ilya rabinovich: As I said the camera was a tool of exploring my social relationships… I think a stopped photographing people for a period of few years after my mother died in 92…it was to painful to look at pictures of her, and the knowing that this might be also the case with other people made it emotionally heavy for me…

At that period, I started to photograph the apartments, trying to say something about the people that lived there without showing them… Since that time, I mainly photograph photographs of institutes. I realized that by doing so, my focus is about the social system that makes us live in a certain way and not about my own story directly…

[01.02.2010 16:44:32] Fiodorova tatiana: Ты родом из Кишинева, какие были у тебя воспоминания об этом городе и что изменилось?

[01.02.2010 16:46:31] ilya rabinovich: yes I was born in Kishinev…we lived in Pushkin 50/ a before immigration…that was in the years 1969-1973…before that in Chuseva 55 or 53 the house does not exist anymore…

Photo by I. Rabinovich , Str. Chuseva 55, Chisinau

I did remember my childhood while living in Israel…but in some stage I guess after my army service when I was 23 in 1988 the memory became remote/wage I could not remember it anymore…I felt as if it happened to some one else…I had a happy childhood…a lot of friends than in the courtyard…

[01.02.2010 16:46:40] Fiodorova tatiana: Как я поняла, ты любишь в этот город возвращаться время от времени,  он каким-то образом тебя очаровывает, почему?

[01.02.2010 16:48:55] ilya rabinovich: yes, I like to come back to Kishinev…. I have some kind of ‘flash back’ on a physical level…It is not that I start to remember things but just some remote feelings of happiness from my childhood… You know , a certain kind of autumn light…or leaves on the pavement can make me extremely happy/sad in the same time…it is the realization that I am from there…and I had some past there…somehow feels important for me… You know the phantom syndrome, when a person with amputated hand feels as if his hand is still there…It is also in the psychological level happens to immigrants…a feeling of immigrant life…

The need to belong, and to be accepted, to be acknowledged in the place where you were born…small compensations…

Photo by I. Rabinovich, Pushkin street 50 Chisinau, 2008

[01.02.2010 16:56:18] Fiodorova tatiana: Помнишь ли ты свою первую фотографию или свой первый фотоаппарат?

[01.02.2010 16:57:09] ilya rabinovich: Yes, I remember my first photo camera. It was a second hand Zorky I bought in Jerusalem… My second camera  was a Pentacon that my parents bought before we immigrated to Israel. But they never learnt how to use it…so it was lying on the shelf for years and years before I started using it…I think that I started to use it in 1988… So it was on the shelf for 15 years…as a youngster I  looked at it for so many times…But I did not dare to ask for a permission to use it…was almost like a holly object…maybe because of the Pentacon I became a photographer… The Zorky I used between 1983 till 1988…the Pentacon survived 1988-1991…

[01.02.2010 17:03:30] ilya rabinovich: No I do not remember my first photograph…I have a wage memory of what I was trying to do…I tried to photograph sculptures in a museum garden in Jerusalem. I thought it will bring ‘artistic’ photos… and also photographs of candles, piano from a close up…quite usual amateur photographs…nothing special…I think that if I would be better in science I would never become an artist… after the failure in the university I was motivated to proof to myself that I was able to do some thing good…

[01.02.2010 17:08:22] ilya rabinovich: about what changed in Kishinev… Unfortunately it looks very run down…I do not look at shopping centers as signs of cultural progress…the other way around…they kill all what is special to the place and bring unlimited amount of garbage products you see all over the world …this is globalization… Chisinau is about ‘the poverty as a state of being’ not a cliche…

[01.02.2010 17:15:04] Fiodorova tatiana: Расскажи, в каких интересных  проектах ты участвовал в Кишиневе.

[01.02.2010 17:18:23] ilya rabinovich: Well, I did until now two projects…the first one was more nostalgic…I did it in 1999 coming back the first time after 26 years photographing the neighborhood where we lived before immigration to Israel in 1973…you can see some images at


The school that I started to study before immigration to Israel, part of Johannesburg Kisheniev project 1999

The second project museutopia was in 2008…I was looking at the museums displays for traces related to the period that I lived there…and because I found a very subverted presentation regarding Moldava’s ability to show its recent history I went into an analyzing process in an attempt to understand what do I rally see and what does it mean in relation to Moldovan identity…you can see more details in

Museutopia Project, The Ethnography Museum, 2008

[01.02.2010 17:32:08] Fiodorova tatiana: В процессе  осуществления этих проектов  были ли яркие события или встречи, что-то неожиданное и  или может быть трогательное?

[01.02.2010 17:36:36] ilya rabinovich: I owe a huge thanks to KSA:K and in particularly to Lilia Dragnyava and Stefan Rusu without their dedicated help the Museotopia project would not happen….Maxim Kuzmenco was a great coordinator and assisted me with all practical matters …besides I was very happy to get to know Antonina Sarbu…she related to my work very easily and helped a lot in translation and text editing…her help was invaluable…Also got to meet Marin Turea…a person who could develop much more in another country and stayed in Kishinev…the thing I did not expect at all was the bureaucracy of National museum of History and Archaeology. The archives of all the Communist propaganda museums (which were closed by government decree in 1991) are in the patrimony of the History museum…but they do not want to give any access to those materials…KSA:K made a consistent effort in a half year period to get this permission and did not manage…I was astonished…

[01.02.2010 17:42:42] ilya rabinovich: and a some stories about my family… an uncle of mine is a writer – Constantin Condra…When we went to the house of writers I asked the director if they have in their archive photographs of him…and told the story that all the individual photographs were destroyed because my uncle immigrated with his family to the USA in the 80’s…but they could still fins some group photographs where he appeared… and in the historical museum there was an old lady working as a guard…she knew my parents too…before I was born…

[01.02.2010 17:44:26] ilya rabinovich: and I also go and seat in the courtyard of Puskin 50 a…some time some old babushka’s are asking me what I am doing there…and some of them also new my parents… Last time we managed to get into courtyard of Shuseva 55. It looks so small and ‘zabroshena’…hard to imagine that my first steps were made in that place…the neighbor had a vague memory but was not sure if he remembered our family…I guess that the memory by other people is being emotionally important…that was the only evidence that we ever existed in Kishinev…even though my father was born there too…

[01.02.2010 17:49:05] ilya rabinovich: another uncle of mine had a photo studio, Izmailovskya corner Stefan Cel Mare…this place was demolished too…This uncle immigrated with his family to Israel in the 80’s…

Photo by I. Rabinovich, Pushkin street 50 ,where was our apartment now is a Photo service shop Chisinau 2008

[01.02.2010 17:57:06] Fiodorova tatiana: Расскажи  о своем недавнем проекте, который ты реализовал в Амстердаме.

[02.02.2010 14:42:03] ilya rabinovich: I was using a tele lens , peeping into peoples apartments in Amsterdam…It is always for me about ‘the other’ how do the local live and what they let to be seen…there is an article written by Donna Wolf about it in

Installation view REAR WINDOW Project,part of Be(com)ing Dutch exhibition at the Van Abbe Museum Eindhoven ,2008


Installation view Project REAR WINDOW, Amsterdam, 2010.Photograph by Andrei Tchernikov.



Installation view Project REAR WINDOW, Amsterdam, 2010.Photograph by Andrei Tchernikov.

[02.02.2010 14:41:48] Fiodorova tatiana: Ты в своей последней работе говоришь, что Амстердам отличается от других европейских городов, почему?

[02.02.2010 14:42:55] ilya rabinovich: the open windows, you do not have it as a cultural phenomena in other city’s…this Calvinism …the attitude of we have nothing to hide… a staged theatre showing an idyllic picture of life even though it does have to be the true… it is a theatre of life…Well not every one also has open curtains in Amsterdam…but it is quite common….Calvinism – with the attitude of ‘we have nothing to hide’ is an idea showing that the you are morally ‘a good’ person…you are good Christian in the real life and you are not waiting to be forgiven after your death like Catholics…

[02.02.2010 14:46:11] ilya rabinovich: windows are windows…but I do not think that you have the mentality in Kishinev to let people look into your life…or am I wrong…?

[02.02.2010 14:50:42] Fiodorova tatiana: Мне кажется, наши горожане даже не думают о том, что кто-то, может быть, подсматривает за ними.  Очень часто у нас  занавески полуоткрыты, и есть возможность что-то разглядеть. J

[02.02.2010 14:50:58] ilya rabinovich: aha

[02.02.2010 14:53:08] Fiodorova tatiana: Твоя работа очень перекликается с твоей кишиневской серией фотографий, где частым мотивом служит полуоткрытое окно.

[02.02.2010 14:56:20] ilya rabinovich: Yes technically the ‘rear window’ is different the other things I am usually doing…I am looking from one private apartment through a communal space into another private apartment….mostly I photograph in the space where I am located…

[02.02.2010 14:57:36] ilya rabinovich: in Kishinev, the curtains were a symbol to the border an the inability to go beyond…the thin layer of consciousness that separates between the past and the present…the curtain… between the nostalgia and the present…the sadness of realizing that my life was separated from where they could have been…

Johannesburg Kisheniev project 1999

Project Apartments of friends, Amsterdam, 2005

[02.02.2010 15:01:33] Fiodorova tatiana: Ты можешь как-то охарактеризовать направление твоих работ?

[02.02.2010 15:36:04] ilya rabinovich: the direction of my works…well it is a big question… Characteristic…well I visual investigate places that look not very impressive and try to make a beautiful photograph out of them…I try to seduce the viewer by suggesting to look again at the familiar and banal…to stop the time.  The works are almost always related to places where I lived, where I have a history…the identity and temporarily issues are always exist in the background…personal identity versus group identity versus anonymity… I am a lot of times taking the position of a ‘remote/detached’ viewer…use the manipulation of ‘objective’ showing how those places are really look like…It is a manipulation because in the end the goal is not to show the place but rather to provoke an idea or a feeling…my works should function as trigger for the viewer to think a bit more…I always hope to initiate a thinking process…because the art work, where does it exist? Actually it is not my work or the views consciousness but the dialog that might happen between the two…

[02.02.2010 15:48:07] Fiodorova tatiana: У тебя есть любимые фотографы, чьи фотографии произвели на тебя большое впечатление?

[02.02.2010 15:48:50] ilya rabinovich: Robert Frank- the Americans, August Sander, Josef Koudelka

[02.02.2010 15:49:54] Fiodorova tatiana: Какой ты видишь сегодняшнюю ситуацию в Молдове в области фотографии?

[02.02.2010 15:50:54] ilya rabinovich: I really do not know about the photography world in Moldova…but it does not mean it does not exist…

[02.02.2010 16:01:38] Fiodorova tatiana: Расскажи о наиболее ярком событии в твоей профессиональной карьере.

[02.02.2010 16:02:00] ilya rabinovich: like what?

[02.02.2010 16:02:28] Fiodorova tatiana: может  быть участие в очень интересной выставке

[02.02.2010 16:05:25] ilya rabinovich: I do not like openings…even not from my own exhibitions…currently I am working on a book related to the museutopia project this is the most complicated process I ever made… Our son was born four months ago…that was a happening…

[02.02.2010 16:06:43] Fiodorova tatiana: nice :)

[02.02.2010 16:07:21] Fiodorova tatiana:  Как ты определяешь для себя  баланс  между творчеством  и необходимостью зарабатывать на жизнь.  Можешь ли рассказать о распорядке твоего дня и много ли времени есть для творчества?

[02.02.2010 16:08:47] ilya rabinovich: the reason I live in Amsterdam is that they have a good supporting system for their artists…it means that I can live without the need to earn money all the time…but this situation will change in few years…

I work as professional photographer and make art documentation …but I do not work too much because mostly I do have enough money to survive…my day, it depends, I wake up mostly at 6 in the morning to feed our son and than sleep until 9 and around 11 go to the studio…in my studio I do mostly the thinking and bureaucracy…try to finish the day around 19:00…of course when there are dead lines I work more intensively… I work for money few days per month, which is great…

[02.02.2010 16:13:27] ilya rabinovich: periods that I photograph for a project are of course different, than I am busy most of the time with photography…but this is 1-2 projects a year…

[02.02.2010 16:13:28] Fiodorova tatiana: Да, в Кишиневе мечтать об  этом просто не возможно:)

[02.02.2010 16:13:44] ilya rabinovich: yes, I know in Israel this also is impossible… I work because I want to do things, no body force me…but of course if I do not run around nothing happens for me… but I had a period 2.5 years ago when I worked as a postman..I might do it this year again…and from time to time I work as an assistant of fashion photographer…

[02.02.2010 16:17:58] Fiodorova tatiana: Расскажи немного о системе, которая поддерживает художников в Голландии, это ежемесячные выплаты в качестве зарплаты?

[02.02.2010 16:30:35] ilya rabinovich: well the Dutch system is actually has a lot of possibilities…there is the Netherlands foundation for visual arts…they either give money per projects or for living…but you have to pass a comision every time, it means that there is no guarantee that you will have money…than there are a competitions that if you manage than you will either being supported on a project or your work is being bought…but you really have to be well informed about what is going on…and also to have the right permission to stay…

[02.02.2010 16:24:54] Fiodorova tatiana: Сейчас многие занимаются фотографией. По каким критериям ты определяешь, что это профессионал своего  дела?

[02.02.2010 16:33:51] ilya rabinovich: I do not know to tell you when it is professional…or not… nobody takes the technical quality as a guideline anymore, the only question is if the photograph is ‘good enough’…when I studied photography in Jerusalem it was easier to decide if something is professional, but now days when anyone has a camera in their mobile telephone posting images on the internet as art…there is no criterion anymore for ‘professionalism’…

[02.02.2010 16:37:36] Fiodorova tatiana: И последний вопрос: Над чем работаешь сейчас и  какие планы на будущее?

[02.02.2010 16:38:39] ilya rabinovich: I work on the Museutopia book…and I do not have exhibitions coming but I do not worry about it now…

[02.02.2010 16:46:15] Fiodorova tatiana: :)


7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 12:21 pm

    Tatiana, thank you for the interview. I enjoyed it a lot.

  2. Oleg permalink
    February 15, 2010 8:46 am

    Привет Таня, поздравляю с первым интервью:)
    Большому кораблю, большое плавание…

  3. March 19, 2010 1:13 am

    Хорошая статья. Действительно было интересно почитать. Не часто такое и встречается та.Наверное стоит подписаться на ваше RSS

  4. March 19, 2010 6:38 pm

    Действительно интересно. Побольше бы таких статей.

  5. August 29, 2010 11:26 am

    Oana Rullz … :)

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