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On Location: Dina Litovsky in "Noisy and Chaotic" Tel Aviv

By David Schonauer   Monday October 30, 2017


Dina Litovsky  likes cities that are noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming.

“My photography focuses on people and street scenes,” she recently told AFAR magazine. “Cities like Tokyo and Hanoi that are so busy and kaleidoscopic, that’s what I like. So when I found out I was going to Tel Aviv, I thought, this is a city where I can be myself.”

AFAR magazine  sent Litovsky there for its “Spin the Globe” feature, in which someone — usually a writer — is sent to a city with just a 24-hour notice to be a flaneur, walking the streets and discovering the place for themselves. “This was the first time they’ve done it with a photographer,” says Litovsky.

The result was what she calls her “favorite assignment of the year, so far.”

"It was my fave shoot precisely because the editor trusted me with complete freedom to do whatever I wanted - create my own story and vision of the city,” she says.

Litovsky spent five days wandering through the Tel Aviv. “I came to think of the city as this big flea market,” she told AFAR. “It’s claustrophobic and loud and fast and very, very colorful. It’s a mix of cultures and street smells and food.”

In the 24 hours before she left for Tel Aviv,  Litovsky booked a guide and did a Google image search. “I wanted to have a picture of the city as it is right now,” she said. “In the photos, Tel Aviv looked really clean, with white Bauhaus buildings and people sitting in cafés. It looked like the French Riviera.”

She spent most of her time tracking down Tel Aviv’s busiest areas. “The city really transforms based on the time of day,” Litovsky told the magazine. “I would just ask my guide, ‘It’s noon, where are there going to be the most people?’” She prowled along the beaches on Tel Aviv’s coastline and wandered through the Florentin neighborhood, with its cafés packed late into the night. She also tagged along with soldiers on their lunch break and convinced a group of gruff men to let her photograph their sidewalk backgammon game, noted the magazine.

“Many of the soldiers I saw were very young, like 18 and 19, and at lunch they go to cafés to eat in uniform, with guns. I took an exploratory shot of these soldiers and liked it, so I asked if I could follow them. I spent about an hour at a table nearby, just watching them like a hawk. I didn’t talk to them much—there was a language barrier, so we just smiled at each other—but it’s also because I try not to talk to my subjects. It changes the dynamic of the photo. I’m looking to capture a natural state. I’m trying to capture the interaction between other people, not the interaction with me.”

Litovsky says she used her “regular setup” to photograph in the crowded street scenes — a digital camera,  24-70 lens and and off-camera flash that her guide/assistant helped with. That, as we noted in a 2015 profile  of the photographer, is how she has captured other crowded and sometimes hidden milieus, from bachelorette parties in Las Vegas hotel rooms to New York fashion shows to young women partying inside night clubs.

Among her experiences in Tel Aviv, one stands out. “One day, as I was walking through the new part of Jaffa, I saw these three couples. There are two women outside the shot, but I thought it was interesting that men were with the strollers," she says. "I followed them for about three blocks, looking for the layers. When I got this shot, with the café couches and chairs in the background, the babies’ legs, and the man looking at me and smiling, I knew I had it.”

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