Tell Me Where Your Freedom Lies is the ongoing photo project by Fotómetro – aka Ofek Avshalom and Rona Bar – exploring identity and self-expression
“In a society that keeps trying to put you in a certain box, sometimes the small acts of self-expression matter the most,” says photographer Ofek Avshalom, one half of ‘Fotómetro’ with Rona Bar – the Israeli-born photography duo that marries Bar’s dark surrealist concepts with Avshalom’s realist style.
A cryptic tattoo, a hand-made piece of clothing, an abstract painting… These are some of the simple elements that Bar and Avshalom were drawn to when creating their recent photo series Tell Me Where Your Freedom Lies. Here, the duo enter their subjects’ most private spaces and immortalises them at different stages of their life. Comprising images taken over the course of the last 12 months in locations across Tel Aviv, London and Bristol, the duo sought to highlight what made these individuals special to them. Bar tells Dazed, “We think that some details are easily overlooked in real life but in a photo you have time to stop and stare.”
While the word “freedom” may evoke images of wide open space rather than the interiors, the pair chose to frame their subjects between four walls. “The title Tell Me Where Your Freedom Lies is taken from the song ‘The Crystal Ship’ by The Doors,” says Bar. “We felt that it represented the enduring search for self-expression and identity.” Much like the song, the series is characterised by a dreamy, tranquil atmosphere.
“My room has always been my safe place, my shrine, the place I can feel free to be myself,” explains Bar. From a young man trying on a necklace in his girlfriend’s room to a woman sitting on her bed the night before her breast cancer surgery, the images, as Avshalom puts it, portray “the feeling that the subjects are in their natural environments, where they feel comfortable”.
The burgeoning selfhood of the young people they photograph manifests itself in their choice of clothes and how they present themselves, be it Olivia in her favourite dress, Nitzen with a plastic elf ear, or Milly showing off her homemade garments. From their own experience, Avshalom and Bar consider these small details to be an integral part of youth culture, as a way for young people to not only make their developing identities legible to themselves but also to signal to others; to align themselves with movements, ideas, and belief systems by expressing something externally that reflects their internal landscape.
This is why the photographers were drawn to Nil and Karin, the two young artists captured with their paintings and wearing their handmade jackets. “Their works are mysterious, original and sometimes defiant – just like them,” says Bar. “They take their duality to the next level, in an almost telepathic and mystical way.”
Insistent on capturing people in their own clothes, the duo opts for spontaneity rather than direction. “For example, the image of Rom in his apartment, we just told him to wait while we adjust the light, and then we recognised an emotional expression, he was thinking about something else, so we photographed it,” recalls Avshalom. “Sometimes the best image is the one that happens in between our directions… In our personal projects we focus on inclusivity and diversity, trying to represent people and groups from society that we believe don’t get enough representation in the media,” explains Avshalom, “By showcasing a range of characters and personalities, we’re celebrating the identities of our subjects.”
Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.