Israel-based photographer Arik Shraga is not just a photographer or a documentarian. He’s the mastermind, the professional collaborator, the brilliant artist behind the stunning project you’re about to see.
When he began working with the DAVAI Theater Group in 2017, he probably didn’t know that this relationship would take both him and DAVAI on such an incredible journey. By 2020, Arik offered them — in conjunction with his photography skills — videography services; DAVAI’s show Hanigrarim became the first large-scale project for which he would use both.
Amidst the deep COVID-inflicted crisis in the theater industry, DAVAI group found a way to create from scratch a completely new show, Hanagrarim, that is successful all over the country.
Vitaly Azarin, the group’s founder, came to Arik in the early stages of the new show’s pre-production. The idea was still relatively vague, but they jumped into an initial photoshoot to see how the characters and decorations would look and started on their promotional campaign.
Shortly after the campaign was launched, it became very apparent that this kind of show — one that complies with the government and COVID-restrictions— was in very high demand.
DAVAI’s scheduled performances began to fill up rapidly, and Arik was invited three times to film the actual performances in various locations.
The very essence of the show harkens to a traveling circus, and I traveled twice with the show all around Israel. Of course, this meant that the environment and lighting conditions were constantly changing.
Arik would go from photoshoots at 6 a.m. in the middle of the Negev Desert to the harsh sunlight in small towns like Mitzpe Ramon. They even had performances in entirely Muslim towns in the very north of Israel where they would have to stop the show to honor the evening prayers.
During the strict lockdown, the trailer wasn’t allowed to make stops on its way, so the show was constantly moving, and I literally had to run long kilometers after the trailer wearing a facemask!
Having begun working for DAVAI years ago, Arik was already considered their photographer of choice for all of their creative endeavors — but he’s a favorite because of more than just his highly professional and innovative photography skills.
Vitaly, DAVAI’s founder, lauds Arik as a true partner, saying that he is “another artist who can complete your fantasy. He willingly listens to what you need to create your idea and make it as gorgeous and as advanced visually as it can be.”
With this high praise comes a few jokes as well.
The artists jokingly mentioned that their photographer is a sportsman in perfect physical condition (which is not true). I never jog unless I have a camera hanging from my neck!
I’ve also heard from the artists that I reminded them of an invisible soldier — they’d notice me for a second right nearby, and the next moment I appeared on a staircase on the roadside half a block away, shooting from above.
Arik has to be able to move fast and simultaneously stay out of the way. A show like Hanagrarim is continuously evolving as new elements get added, characters and decorations are tweaked, and all of this is happening as the environment constantly changes. Creating a consistent narrative of the visual image so that it’s recognizable was key, even as things kept moving.
Except for the initial photoshoot which happened in a relaxed atmosphere of a rehearsal, all the others were unfolding during actual shows which were physically and emotionally demanding.
While running behind the trailer full of the performers, Arik also had to lug his equipment with him, avoid speeding cars on the road and concentrate on filming.
I felt that the artists were helping me by acting not only for the public but for the camera as well, which was amazing. By the end of the shoots, the artists and I were completely exhausted. However, it was a great feeling as we were sitting down scrolling through the pictures — I truly felt myself an integral part of the show who shared with them all the hardships and joys of a traveling circus.
See more of Arik’s work at arikshraga.com.
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page!