How Discovering Street Photography Transformed Orna Naor's World
By Mason Resnick
She went from housewife and mom to world renowned street photographer in 3 years. But Orna Naor has an angle.
Tel Aviv-based photographer Orna Naor picked up photography 3 years ago, after raising a family, and is now a rising star in the world of street photography. We asked her about her approach, and how taking up photography has changed her life.
5 Questions for Orna Naor
Silver: I am amazed that you've only been doing photography for three years! What were you doing before you discovered photography, and how did it change you as a person and an artist?
Orna Naor: I learned literature in university. By the time I'd earned an M.A. I had 2 children, and I decided to be a stay-at-home Mom. Once they were grown up, I started to look for something fulfilling to do. By chance, I met a friend who had a Nikon D-7000 camera, and my husband said that if I wanted that camera, I should go and take a course in photography. I started to learn in the Israeli-based Allon Kira photography school (where I teach today), and after taking a class on Street Photography, I knew that I had found what I was looking for.
Photography became my passion; almost my identity. I get a lot of support and appreciation from my family. They are happy that I've found, in my 50's, the thing that makes me whole. I can honestly say that photography is as important to me as breathing. It is my being, my esesence, and "photographer" is a title I will never relinquish.
Silver: You've been traveling the world, taking pictures in Israel, your native country, as well as in Morocco, Cuba, the USA and Europe. Which countries did you feel most comfortable shooting, and where do you want to go next?
Orna Naor: The most welcoming place for Photographers that I've been to is Cuba. People there invite you into their homes. They love being photographed, and there are beautiful moments of connections with strangers you'll never meet again.
In Israel, as in USA and Europe, I use different tactics. When I use a wide angle lens, I can pretend that I'm "only taking picture of the cat" or point my camera towards another object, get some clicks of that, and then turn the camera a bit and—oops—got them! In Israel, I often show people their photos, send them later by mail. I have the advantage of being a small woman with a small camera and a big smile. It usually works.
Silver: You seem to work very close to the people you photograph. Are all of your images candid, or are people aware you're taking their pictures?
Orna Naor: My pictures are primarily candid, but I often, especially in Israel, make eye contact people. I'm especially sensitive about taking pictures that include children. I show the parents the pictures and send them later.
I believe that the relation between the photographer and subject are part of the process. I don't take posed pictures, but if a child is smiling at me and seems happy because he is being photographed, that's simply part of the scene, as much as I'm concerned. The reaction to being photographed is also a part of what is happening in that moment on the street.
Silver: You have a good sense of foreground and background. In many of your photos, the two play off each other. How long did it take you to realize this important aspect of composition, and does shooting in B&W help you with this?
Orna Naor: I really can't say how long it took me; it's a process of learning and practicing. I'm trying to tell a story in my pictures, that's why I'm looking for composition, light and shadows, connections, juxtapositions, looks etc., that will tell the story that I'm creating in my mind and telling through my pictures.
Composition was the main thing I learned during the many courses I took in Street Photography. And I'm trying to pass it on in my classes today.
Silver: What kind of gear do you use? (Camera, lens, etc). What influenced your choices?
I also take lots of my pics from a low point of view. I developed this style over time, and now I have the nickname "widelow". Perhaps I shoot this way because this is my natural point of view, being a small person who always has to look up at people when approaching them.