“When I work, femininity is not my subject.”

How did you become a photographer? Would you define yourself as a one?

I find photography’s ability to fold up the whole world into a flat surface fascinating. I have never experienced photography as only a shell but was always enchanted by its magical capacity to absorb the viewer. This dialectical quality, between depth and flatness, exists in my works as two entities that need to be considered and contemplated.

I do not see myself as a photographer since my interest in the medium only arrived late, at a moment when the image was defined by someone else holding the camera. I do think I share the medium’s core concern regarding the question of the gaze: how we look at the world, how we experience it and how images resuscitate under the two-dimensional regime that was forced upon them.

What drives you as a photographer?

I try not to limit myself with thematical or conceptual definitions. My deep interest lies in images that stir me up, artworks that cannot be easily categorized.

Do you think there is such a thing as a ‘woman’s gaze’ in photography? Is this something you can relate to?

My gaze upon both the world and the intimate is a woman’s gaze, as well as a gaze that tries to capture all the nuances that transpire from my own identity – my age, where I live, my personal and cultural history. Trying to essentialise just one of these parameters could turn the notion of the gaze into an external filter, which I find problematic. When I work, femininity is not my subject.

A more interesting question might be: what makes a gaze feminine? I feel the answer is something one can only sense or feel but which is rather difficult to define with unequivocal linguistic definitions.

Has being a woman influenced your work as an artist in any way?

I choose to believe it did not, and that my works’ meaning and quality are the standards determining their place within the art world.

Do you live off your art?

I do not, fortunately. I teach in the Bezalel academy of art and design in Jerusalem. Having another source of income renders my art free from any economical outcomes.

Which authors have inspired you? Are there any women photographers among them?

I would say Agnes Marti, who has been a major source of inspiration for many years. Her religious, mysterious and undeciphered approach to art is fascinating, as well as her commitment to her craft, without any promise of prospects or profits.

John Stezaker was my tutor at the Royal College of Art, in London, and we have heavily discussed the power of image and the attempts to arrest and extract images from their vessel: the flow of life.

Yossi Breger, a friend and Israeli photographer whose body of work is embedded with notions of definitions and reductions. He helped me figure out what is truly “an eye” in the world.

Finally, Dalia Amotz, an Israeli female photographer whose breakthrough landscape photography defined an oppositional approach to the male gaze of the 1980s which prevailed in Israeli photography at the time. She captured the darkness of existence using bright light fields.

© Yael Burstein


Born in Israel in 1974, Yael Burstein is a multidisciplinary artist exploring issues related to the photographic medium: the notion of ways of seeing, of perspective, of observing the world, as well as two-dimensional vision. Educated at the  Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (2001), then at the Royal College of London (2007), her work is part of private and public art collections (Museum of Israel in Jerusalem, Parallel Collection, Hoche Art Collection), and has been exhibited, notably in Israel (Tel Aviv, Jerusalem). She has received numerous scholarships (Clore Foundation, Sandberg International Scholarship) which have allowed her to freely continue her visual experimentations.

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