Eldad Pnini's Art reflects nature next to progress, love versus fear and purity juxtaposed with cruelty expressed in various forms. His creations rarely have a title because he wants the viewers to interpret his work according to their own world of fears, passions, desire, fantasies and metaphysical emotions. Let us discover more about the strong and intriguing personality of this very accomplished Fine Nude Art photographer. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview.
Can you please tell us about yourself?
I am an artist from Tel Aviv, Israel. I am 42 years old working as graphic designer and photographer in an advertising agency and also take photographs in my spare time.
At a young age I started painting. Painting was my whole world. I studied art and painting at an extension school of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. My studies included classes in painting, colors techniques, models drawing, still life and more. It was then that I fell in love with the human figure. While studying Anatomy and model painting, I used a camera to take pictures of other angles and other details of the model in order to complete my drawings later.
I began to fall in love with the camera and turned to photography more and more. In one of the drawing classes the instructor told me that I can develop the film and enlarge the photographs in the school laboratory. Thus I was exposed to the world of photography. At age 15 I bought a camera, a secondhand Canon with a set of lenses, and I started taking pictures. At first I enthusiastically photographed houses, my family, objects... I photographed almost everything.
I took pictures just in order to get to know and understand the technical aspects of the camera. I didn’t study photography. I just taught myself by trial and error. I photographed a lot. I studied the camera, the speed, the exposure, and got to know the camera in general.
Can you describe your unique photographic vision?
My photographic vision began as time passed by and I gained experience by photographing a lot. I started to think about creating something more unique. So the camera turned into a “paintbrush” for me and I took photographs of things I would have liked to paint.
I arranged to work with a model and we went outdoors to take photo shoots. I found a forest, an abandoned house and even just a room, and I took a lot of pictures. Like all beginnings, things didn’t go so well for me, the photos didn’t come out the way I wanted.
Why are you so drawn by Fine Art Nude photography?
I live in Israel, a small country where everyone knows each other and the subject of nudes is a very sensitive one due to the religious aspect. People here are not open enough to the subject of nudity; nudes cannot be displayed publicly and galleries and museums are always wary of nudes because a small part of the population is upset by nudity. I am saddened that people give in to their dictates.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to combine my imagination and thoughts, which include nudity, with photography. In the past several years the subject of nudes has been breached often and there is a lot more modernization and personal awareness of human form and nudity.
As an artist it’s hard for me to find models for Fine Art Nudes. In order to find them I have to go to art schools where there are models available for artists. Not everyone agrees to be photographed, because of the personal exposure.
I also go on photography and art websites where models advertise themselves and use references from other photographers as well. I always look for a unique model who will know how to convey my idea in the best way. She needs not only to be a model but also to know how to act in front of the camera. She needs to give more of herself than just a nude body.
Nudes were an integral part of human history and artistic history. From a very young age I was exposed to nudes. Nudes are a major part of humanity and art. Nudes for me are the source, they symbolize something primal, initial, a genesis; something sexual, power, weakness, exposure, invasion, beauty, fears, sex, lust, hate, love… almost everything revolves around nudity.
When my wife was in our first pregnancy, I saw from aside this thing called pregnancy and birth. This enchanted me in a way that’s difficult to put into words. This period of the pregnancy and the birth occupied my mind a lot… thoughts and imaginings went through my head constantly. During this period I took a lot of photographs about the subject of the female cycle, pregnancy, childbirth, post-birth, and photographs of women combined with female awareness gave me inspiration for a lot of photographs. I am drawn to this subject as a female nude is conveying so much.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
When I meet with a model in the studio or in another location in nature, I also chat with her a little and explain the idea I want to photograph and the photograph I want to achieve, this sometimes includes a sketch or a drawing which explains and demonstrates what I want. I also have a lot of works in which the model didn’t really have to act in front of the camera but perform the position I wanted so that I could later integrate it into a picture using computer work.
Many people ask me how I photograph nudes all the time without anything “happening” or any sexual tension or lack of concentration. I have an iron rule about nude photography. You have to be very professional. This means that the moment the model is nude in front of me she has to feel confident and free. The photo set has to be the best it can be. During the photo shoot I “flip a switch” in my head and turn the model into a photographic “object” alone. The photo shoot is carried out in a very pleasant and sensitive manner, because sometimes the model is going before the camera for the first time and it’s harder for her than for me, so I really take her into consideration and take things slowly. Ultimately I get what I require in a way that’s pleasant for both me and the model.
Is the story behind your images as important as technical perfection?
As technology has progressed, cameras have became digital and editing software has really advanced. You can photograph more and “run wild”. There’s no pressure not to waste film. For me, the computer and Photoshop have become a very important part of photography and the creative process. I can complete my ideas and create more interesting and complex pictures.
The final picture is very important to me. I am not a “capture the moment” photographer, not a color photographer or an urban or technical photographer. I chose fine art nude photography and there’s a lot of thought and ideas behind every photograph.
It’s important to me that people look at a photograph for more than just one second. I want people to see beyond the nude which is what immediately catches the eye. True, the nude is very striking and draws much attention in the photograph but I want people to try to feel the photograph. I attempt to convey an idea in a photograph. Sometimes my ideas are well hidden there are photographs that are very sensitive and express emotions, thoughts, fears and situations I have encountered.
People who look at my work want to know what lies hidden in the photograph and what it's title is… and I refuse. I don’t give titles to my photographs or provide information about them. The information and the title are already in the photograph. I ask: “What do you feel?” “What do you see?” i want people to Interpret the photograph in their own way.
Technically, visually, the way the photograph turns out is very important to me. Because I photograph and edit in Photoshop, it’s important to me that the visual result is perfect. However, if I took the photograph with poor exposure, or open/closed aperture, that’s of less importance to me because all of my photographs undergo digital processing and the technical aspect is less significant.
Who are your favorite photographers or painters who has influenced your own photography?
My photography began with painting, and at that time I was drawn to surrealist painters. I love the artist René Magritte. He influenced me by his way of thinking, his style and ideas.
I know that I’m not “reinventing the wheel” in the field of photography and I know that I have photographs whose ideas have already been “seen”, and I still photograph them… but I do it my way, with my thought and my style. I know I have diverse and different works. I also know and have been told often, that I have a unique “hand-print” of my own in photography. There are people who have been following my work for a long time and immediately recognize my photographs. This is really touching for me and makes me feel that I’m good.
It’s important to get feedback from the viewer, positive or negative. Negative and harsh reactions from people make me feel that my photograph has succeeded, that it makes people react in some way. This is why I respect any response from people about my photographs.
Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I’d like to share one of my photographs with you, a photograph I really like and one that is very meaningful for me and which “opened the door” to my works being displayed.
This photograph is my take on “The Last Supper”. When Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper” it spawned many “imitations” and different styles in the world of art. Almost every idea had already been painted or photographed and displayed having been influenced by da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. I also wanted my own version of “The Last Supper”, this great work of art in my style.
I found a model, set up a photo shoot and printed out the original painting so that I could explain to the model what I wanted to achieve and how we are going to photograph this painting. I made two versions of “The Last Supper”, one classical and one “in my style”, something different. My “Last Supper” photographs were created with only one model. The rest of the work was done using Photoshop. In the classical-style photograph, the model and I staged scene after scene while looking at the print to each of the twelve figures in the painting. I stood with a camera and a tripod in the studio with the staging and lighting that I set up.
After I’d finished the classical photograph, I moved on to make one according to my own style. Again I was with the camera and tripod, the model sat on the set and I staged each scene differently according to the sketch I made.
In 2010 I took part in a group exhibit called “Vanilla Sex” which exhibited religious symbols alongside sexual fetishes. The curators of the gallery asked me to take part in the exhibit due to my version of “The Last Supper”, and of course I agreed.
Following the advertising of the exhibit, a few days before it was about to be opened at a gallery in Jaffa, my photograph was printed on the invitation to the exhibit and Christian organizations were offended by the photograph and outraged that Christian symbols were displayed like that in public. These organizations asked the Vatican to persuade the authorities to cancel the exhibit. The exhibit was indeed cancelled. The curators and organizers of the exhibit were forbidden to hold the exhibition in Jaffa, and the authorities asked to hold it in a different area in Tel Aviv. My photograph and the “provocative” exhibit made a lot of media buzz on television and in local press. The fuss around my photograph was great advertising for me. Thanks to my photograph I was interviewed for a newspaper and on television. This also opened doors to the industry for me and brought recognition for me and for my works.
My work on “My Last Supper” was photographed according to an idea of showing women’s status in society. No matter how she’s presented, the woman is ultimately blamed and crucified. As I said, I don’t give titles to my photographs and for me the photograph speaks on its own and each person interprets it in their own way. The whole saga and the fuss and emotions of the exhibit brought good publicity for me.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Every photographer or artist would like to be better known around the world, every artist would like more publicity and to make a living from his art. Over the years I’ve held solo exhibits in galleries in Tel Aviv and taken part in group exhibits with other artists. As I said, in Israel the subject of Fine Art Nudes is still “hard to digest”. People are not yet ready for pictures, especially photographs, in the Fine Art Nudes style. People can like my art, they observe and admire, but wouldn’t hang works like mine in their living room, although I do have a lot of pictures that could absolutely be on this “stage” and could be displayed in a central part in the home.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Fine Art Nude photography and how do you get started?
I advise photographers who want to photograph Fine Art Nudes to first go to classes with experienced photographers and teachers, and see and learn how a class with a model is conducted. It’s important to understand that a photography session with a model isn’t a “date” and the photographer isn’t supposed to flirt with the model. The photographer should be very professional and respectful and treat the model with respect. The photographer has to understand something important: it’s difficult sometimes for the model to expose herself in front of the camera, so it’s important to show respect for her.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
Because of the exposure I got here in Israel, I started to look for more places where I can publish and display my work, such as on photography websites which have a Fine Art Nudes section. I found 1x.com online. A whole world of immensely talented photographers of all styles opened up to me, among,them, of course, the Fine Art Nude style. I saw that there was a committee that examined each photograph and provided a space for professional and amateur photographers to display their works. I signed up on your website and uploaded one photograph… after a week I received an email saying that my photograph was accepted and that it met the criteria of a good work. This gave me a wonderful feeling, I felt that my work is worth something and that it is well-liked.
And so I uploaded another picture, and again was told that it was accepted… and this gave me “confirmation” that my photographs are good and that there is appreciation for what I do. Now I upload every photograph that I feel is good, both technically and conceptually, in order to share what I do with other photographers and art and photography enthusiasts.