Monday, 4 March 2019

David Rubinger

David Ben Gurion speaking at the opening of the Sde Boker Field School, 1960s.

David Rubinger was an Israeli photographer and photojournalist whose famous photo of three Israeli paratroopers after the recapture the Western Wall in the Six-Day War has become a defining image of the conflict. I recently enjoyed an exhibition of his work, "David Rubinger/I Captured the Truth, 1947-1997", at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. The exhibition captures 50 years of the veteran Israeli photographer's most iconic work, and also allows the visitor a glimpse of the past, to moments of hope and despair in the State of Israel.
Rubinger was born in Vienna, Austria in 1924. When he was in high school, Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss and with the help of Youth Aliyah, he escaped to Mandatory Palestine via Italy, where he settled in a Jordan Valley kibbutz. His father had already fled to England, but his mother died in the Holocaust. In the Second World War he served with the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in North Africa and Europe. While on leave in Paris, a French girlfriend gave him an American-made Argus 35mm camera as a gift, and he discovered he enjoyed photography. He bought his next camera, a Leica, in 1946, in post-war Germany - paying for it, he said, with 200 cigarettes and a kilo of coffee. Rubinger's first professional photo was of Jewish youth climbing a British tank to celebrate the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, creating the Israeli state.
After the war, he visited his father in England and learned that he had other relatives in Germany. There, he met his cousin Anni and her mother, who had survived the Holocaust. He offered to marry her to secure her emigration to Palestine, but the marriage of convenience ended up lasting more than 50 years until her death. The couple had two children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Upon his return to Israel, Rubinger opened a photography business in Jerusalem, but broke into photojournalism in 1951 when he was offered a job at the weekly news magazine HaOlam HaZeh. Two years later he joined the staff of the Hebrew-language daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, and later the The Jerusalem Post. His big break came in 1954 when he joined Time-Life as a stringer, and two years later was given his first major assignment for Life magazine when asked to cover Israel's campaign in the Sinai during the Suez crisis. As Time-Life's primary photographer for the region, Rubinger covered all of Israel's wars and was given unprecedented access to governmental leaders. He ended up working for them for more than 50 years.
He also served as the Knesset's official photographer for 30 years and was the only photographer granted the right to enter and take photos in the Knesset Members' private dining room.
Left. Lifesavers “Emil and Yoske”, 1952; Yosef Weisman and Amiel Avneri, Tel Aviv.
Right, June 7, 1967: Three paratroopers mere minutes after taking the Western Wall, Jerusalem, during the Six Day War.

Rubinger's signature photograph is of paratroopers at the Western Wall, shortly after its recapture by Israeli forces in the Six-Day War, above, right. Shot from a low angle, the faces of (left to right) Zion Karasenti, Yitzhak Yifat, and Haim Oshri are framed against the wall, gazing off into the distance. Prior to taking the photograph, Rubinger had been at el-Arish on the Sinai Peninsula when he heard a rumour that something big was going to happen in Jerusalem. He hopped aboard a helicopter ferrying wounded soldiers to Beersheba, then drove the rest of the way, at one point asking a hitchhiking soldier he had picked up to drive because he was too sleepy. He arrived in Jerusalem's Old City and, after a quick visit with his family, made his way to the wall. The space between the wall and the buildings in front of it was very narrow, so he lay down to get a shot of the wall itself, when the paratroopers walked by and he took several shots of them.
As part of his agreement with the Israeli Army allowing him front-line access, he turned the negatives over to the government, who distributed it to everyone for a mere 2 each. It was then widely pirated as well. Although Rubinger was upset about his work being stolen, the photo's widespread distribution made it famous.
Haim Bar-Lev, Ariel Sharon and Yeshayahu Gavish arriving in the Negev, 1967.

Football game between Israel and Wales, Ramat Gan stadium, 1959.

In Foreign Minister Golad Meir's kitchen at her home, 1956.

Rubinger was also known for his intimate portraits of Israel's leaders, some in tender moments with their spouses or in their homes. His memorable shots included a quiet moment between Marc Chagall and Golda Meir, during the unveiling of the artist's work in the Knesset; Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin sleeping in an aircraft at the end of the Six-Day War, Jordanian and Israeli soldiers shaking hands, and the dead hand of an Egyptian soldier rising reproachfully skywards out of a sand dune, his helmet beside him. He later revealed one trick of the trade: He always made sure to take a few extra photos of the leaders with their security guards in the frame, then sent the guards copies, ensuring good access the next time.
Paula and David Ben Gurion at their hut in Sde Boker, 1953.

In 1994 Rubinger was commissioned by Harper Collins to spend a day with the then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, for a book, 'A Day in the Life of Israel'. A year later he would take the last photograph concerning him, of the bloodstained lyrics of Shir Lashalom, or Song of Peace, that Rabin had in his pocket on the night he was assassinated in Tel Aviv.
Rubinger was awarded the Israel Prize in communications for 1997, the first year it was awarded in that category. He continued to photograph, taking his camera everywhere. Even in old age he rarely put it down. In 2007 his memoir 'Israel Through My Lens: Sixty Years as a Photojournalist' was published. Finally, in 2009, at the age of 85, Rubinger retired from Time-Life.
Rubinger died on 2nd March 2017 at the age of 92. On 5th March, Yedioth Ahronoth published a 21-page special photographic supplement in colour of selected photographs spanning his career. Meticulous about recording and cataloguing his thousands of images, in 1999 Rubinger had sold his personal archive of 500,000 negatives to the leading Israeli newspaper where he had been briefly employed in the 1950s, for $750,000. Interestingly, thirty percent of the archives are only pictures of football, as Rubinger was the official photographer for Beitar Jerusalem.
An IDF soldier patrolling the main street of Ramallah, 1978.

Israel's Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat of Egypt meet after signing the peace treaty in Aswan, Egypt,1980.

26 comments:

krishna said...

Great post! Got to know lot.

VeggieMummy said...

Stunning photography. What a fascinating man. xx

NorthernBird84 said...

What a wonderful history this man had. The photos are wonderful #SundaySnap

Tom said...

...wonderful black and whites, I remember them as the photos of my youth. I try my hand at black and whites, but I find them harder to take than color. Thank you Lisa for sharing these historic treasures this week, please stop back again.

Miss Val's Creations said...

What an amazing career Rubinger had being able to document so much history! I love that his marriage of convenience turned into a lifetime. Beautiful!

Lydia C. Lee said...

Looks wonderful!

molly said...

Very interesting, thanks for sharing

italiafinlandia said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Golda Meir in the kitchen is my favourite.

Richard said...

Fascinating.

Jibber JabberUK said...

I love black and white photography. It seems to bring a much more personal and intimate feel to the image. I'm not surprised he got paid so little for one of his most famous photographs. It seems to happen all the time to top photographers.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

I love all the photography!

betty-NZ said...

My, what a life he had with such marvelous adventures! His photos are a wonderful legacy, thanks for all the info. Thank you for linking up to My Corner of the World!

philandgarth said...

How interesting, I work in the news industry so I love seeing real life and candid photography by photo journalists #feetdotravel

Sharon said...

These black and white photographs are phenomenal, whether it's someone well known like Golda Meir or the paratroopers. How wonderful that you were able to see this exhibit.

Jayne SMABL said...

What a fascinating guy! I really enjoyed learning about Rubinger and his fab photography.

Thanks for sharing with #MMBC. Have a lovely weekend Lisa. x

By Land and Sea said...

Wow, his work is great!

csuhpat1 said...

His work is amazing. #PoCoLo

Quinn said...

The thick-of-the-action work is impressive, but I especially love the quiet portrait of Golda Meir.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Another fascinating post and I learned so much. Thank you!

junieper2 said...

What a historic post, Lisa! neat to read about Rubinger. How things change - a photographer can be as famous or even more than a Hollywood actor/actress! He has shot some iconic/epic images!
One of my favorite painters is Chagall and I would love to see him in a photo with Golda Meir. A beautiful post for All Seasons - thank you!
Have a lovely week:)

Nicholas V said...

Wonderful works in this exhibition!
Thank you for joining the "Travel Tuesday" meme.

Clare Thomson said...

I love seeing photographic exhibitions and this looks like a fantastic one. I hadn't heard of Rubinger before but you've given me a valuable insight by sharing on #FarawayFiles. I'll look out for his work in the future.

Anna At Lifestyle Crossroads said...

I´ve never heard of David Rubinger before! What a discovery! There´s really something captivating in his pictures! I´d love to see his works in person one day! #FeetDoTravel

Stephanie Robinson said...

Looks great - and i love photo exhibitions, thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

Morgan Prince said...

I always enjoy reading the history of people's lives like that. Thanks for sharing with #pocolo

An Aussie in San Francisco said...

Rubinger led such an interesting (and of course sad in parts) life that had to have informed his work. Thanks for introducing me to his photography and telling us his story.

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