Before Ilan Wittenberg became an award winning photographer, he worked in the corporate world, with a bachelor of science in industrial engineering up his sleeve.
“Four years ago I was made redundant and was contemplating whether or not to get back into the industry,” he explained.
“I just wasn’t as engaged as I used to be with my work, so I thought I could try pursuing my hobby of photography.”
The photo extraordinaire said he wouldn’t have been able to make the career change without the motivation and support from his wife and close mentors.
“I stand on the shoulders of giants. I’ve learnt a lot and I couldn’t have done it without my beautiful wife,” he said.
“When I migrated from Israel to New Zealand in 2001 with my wife and children, I had a dream to become a man who would make a mark on this earth.
“Motivational speaker Stephen Covey once said ‘Live, love, laugh and leave a Legacy’, for me, photography is a way to leave my legacy.”
Mr Wittenberg will exhibit an assortment of 97 portraits, titled Bare Truth, at the Gaffa Gallery from May 12 to 28.
“Bare Truth is a captivating collection of portraits of New Zealand men who are humble, courageous and vulnerable,” he said.
“Their photographs expose and reveal who they really are and their edgy portraits are presented in monochrome to emphasize their shape and form.
“The combination of using a soft, directional light while adapting a special post-processing technique, enables me to enhance their features so the images are raw and crisp. They look directly into my camera so there is always a highlight in their eyes.”
Mr Wittenberg explained the idea of creating portraits of men who exposed their chest evolved gradually.
“The biggest challenge was finding the first man to agree to pose topless.
“After a few rejections and setbacks, I created a portrait of a close friend and became really engaged with the look in his eyes,” he added.
“Many cultures portray men as strong, physically and emotionally. This stereotype sometime leads to dire outcomes when considering how poorly typical men treat health symptoms, depression, stress and anxiety.”
He said one of the biggest goals for his project was to raise awareness and to give men freedom to express their feelings and connect to their emotions.
“This fresh look at men is an eye opening opportunity to see the real people without the ‘shield’ of clothes.
“We are all flesh and blood and we are here on this planet for a short period of time. This project simply reminds us of how fragile we are.
“It takes us just one-tenth of a second to judge someone and make a first impression, so it’s fascinating to see how quickly we form our opinion, based solely on physical appearance.”
Bare Truth gained further momentum after selected prints won prestigious awards at the Portrait Classic category of the 2015 Iris Awards form the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography.
The collection was then chosen to be exhibited as an Associate at the 2016 Head On Photo Festival, which will run until May 29, as well as the 2016 Auckland Festival of Photography.
“It’s been said that photography is the easiest medium of art to be competent in but it’s the hardest medium in which to have a truly personal vision,” Mr Wittenberg said.
“It’s very much like talking – everyone can talk but very few have something to say,” he added.
When asked what his overall goal was for the collection he replied: “My goal is to present work that is strong and distinguished with a clear narrative sense. I wish to inspire people with images that are crisp and sharp, to be creative and artistic, to evoke emotions and to show a personal vision.”
Details: Bare Truth will run from May 12 – 28 at Gaffa Gallery, 281 Clarence Street, Sydney.
To find out more about Ilan Wittenberg visit: ilanwittenberg.com