Netta Laufer: Distant Lights
Winner of the Lauren and Mitchell Presser Photography Award for a Young Israeli Artist, 2022
Neta Laufer looks at animals. As a child, she observed the many animals she raised, studied biology, and eagerly read National Geographic magazines. As a photography student, she learned about the history of nature photography – primarily American landscape photography – and of the critical turn in the second half of the 20th century. Scholars and cultural critics began questioning the perception of nature as “natural” and exposing the various forces – political, institutional and social – that dominate and shape it. This could be described as a shift from “landscape” to “territory” – a place to control and possess, where some are free to roam, whereas others are forbidden entry. Even the seemingly beneficial act of protecting and preserving nature poses the question of which nature deserves protection and from whom. Photography and photographic apparatuses are integral to these acts – from 19th-century Romantic representations of nature to documentation, surveillance and monitoring.
Curiosity, patience, and a keen critical eye drive Laufer as she surveys the conflicted Israeli territory, approaches physical borders and charts transparent ones. She settles in and around fences and walls, cemeteries, nature reserves, forests, and archeological sites, ready to capture the presence of animals who share these places with humans. Her works shed light on how they are affected by human presence in their habitats and how they adapt or challenge it.
Laufer uses various photographic means, such as security cameras, motion-activated trail cameras, drones, and thermal cameras that allow night photography and recall civil, scientific, and military uses. A fox, jackal, gazelle, hyena, partridge, and porcupine briefly appear in her works. At times, they may react to the camera and look into the lens, but for the most part, they are indifferent and wander about looking for food or moving from one place to another. Perhaps in a moment, they will either prey on something or be preyed upon themselves.
The exhibition includes various media: still photographs, video works, a sound work, and a wild plant “sculpture.” Most works were created for the exhibition; the most recent was produced after October 7.