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Among Israelis: Some Everyday Portraits

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Smoking Bride (Jack Micay photo)

A new photography exhibit at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre, Among Israelis: Some Everyday Portraits, features pictures shot by amateur photographer Jack Micay.

Although this is only Micay’s second exhibition in his 69 years, he refers to himself as a “lifelong shutterbug.”

“I’ve always been a photographer. That goes back to when I was a kid. I’ve always had a darkroom, I’ve always taken lots and lots of pictures and I’ve always done lots of traveling and taken lots of travel pictures,” he said.

Last year, Micay had his first photography exhibit at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre: the similarly-named Among Israelis: Some Captured Moments. Micay says there is overlap between the new exhibit and the one from last year, with about a quarter of the 21 photos in the new exhibit not appearing in the previous one.

Israel is his favourite place to shoot travel pictures. He’s been doing it for decades, and keeps going back for more.

“I’m a red-blooded Zionist and I love Israel. And I go to Israel once or twice a year. And once again after about 50 years I’m a student of Hebrew. I went to Hebrew school as a kid in Winnipeg,” he said.

The earliest picture in the exhibit is from the 1980s. It features two Ethiopian Christian Coptic priests. They’re standing on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional Christian site of both the crucifixion and the resurrection, one facing towards the camera and one facing away from it.

“There’s always infighting between different Christian denominations in the church, and this particular denomination… they were relegated from the church itself up to the roof,” Micay said. “That was kind of an exotic discovery to go up on the roof and then to see these people and to catch two of them in quite a sort of photogenic situation.”

Micay’s favourite photo from the exhibit is one that he calls Smoking Bride. A woman in a billowing white dress walks down an orange-lit street in Tel Aviv at night, taking a drag of a cigarette, with her bridesmaids fanned out behind her. One of them is holding up the bride’s wedding dress, one holds a bouquet of flowers, one has a single rose and another is clutching what appears to be an air horn.

Micay has another photo of the bride in his collection, although that one didn’t make it into the exhibit.

“I have a picture of her and her husband to be,” he said. “They went around the corner, there was a little synagogue, and I followed them, and then I shot a picture of the two of them.”

Micay swims at the Miles Nadal JCC almost every day, which is how he came to exhibit his photos in the first place. He heard they were accepting applications for new art exhibits, so he decided to enter his photos.

“There was this opportunity; otherwise I probably wouldn’t have taken the initiative myself,” he said.

In his working life, Micay was a family doctor until about a year ago. He is also a semi-retired filmmaker. His specialty is a genre that he calls science musicals, documentary-style videos on an educational, scientific topic that combined animation and original musical numbers with local musical acts such as The Shuffle Demons or Moxy Fruvous, which was Jian Ghomeshi’s band in the ‘90s.

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Alana Saxe, the director of Arts and Culture at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre, says they’re excited about Micay’s exhibit.

“Jack is an incredibly experienced, well-traveled man, and you can see his passion about how Israelis live through his photography. It’s really capturing real-life moments that are ordinary, but look extraordinary through his lens,” she said.