Truth, Beauty, Asylum

by Jenna Romano | 22.02.18

“‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ – that is all you need to know on earth, all you need to know”. The words written by John Keats have aroused questions and skepticism in manifold subjects, including art. It came to mind as I recently contemplated a series of photographs taken by Miri Davidovitz, a series dedicated to photographing the faces of African asylum seekers currently living in Tel Aviv.

Photography as an art form has the potential to represent the most minute truths because of its intantaneous nature – truths which are not always objectively beautiful, but beautiful because they are inherent.

Reviewing the images from Davidovitz’s ongoing project, it was clear that the photographer set a specific stage in order to portray a desired tone, aesthetic and mood. Davidovitz presents a set of refugees different from what you read about in the news – the subjects are turned towards the camera, dressed in traditional clothing, holding children, smiling, contemplative, celebrative.

These alluring images seem to betray the truth – shedding an alternative positive light on a people who are, in reality, facing the enormous trials of their past, present and future. The question is – why did Davidovitz make the decision to shield us from the refugees’ hardships in her presentation?

“Two years ago when the crisis in Syria accelerated I decided to do a project that was more practical than artistic. This is when I decide to photograph refugees in very honorable portraits. I wanted to show them this way because they are usually transparent, and I wanted to emphasize their culture and their beauty”.

Davidovitz further explains that her work with the refugee community as a sort of ‘artistic relief’. The photographer, known for shooting fashion campaigns as well unique artistic photos of life and culture in Tel Aviv, spent intimate time with refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, Congo and other African countries throughout these photoshoots.

“I wanted to know them, how to access them and to present them respectfully. Their misery is there, most of them are in a state of post trauma and mourning. But I chose not to show that. When they see these photographs, they are touched”.

There is a decisive truth that exists in Davidovitz’s colourful photos. Separating the identities of the tens of thousands of African refugees currently living in Israel from the public’s social agendas, political orientation and ideologies – Davidovitz portrays an image of a community that emphasizes culture, dignity, individuality, and yes, beauty.


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