Home sweet home (Airbnb) is a series that I created with my 3 daughters: Zohar, Tamar and Daniella during the global pandemic COVID-19 and lockdown. The pictures were not taken in our home, but in 8 different houses that we stayed during the lock- down in Europe. Each house became our home for a period of time and I let my children bring a new life and spirit into the 4 walls we visited. As an immigrant who is interested in the question of belonging, I explored the essence of connection to a place that does not belong to us.
I asked myself: What does “home” mean? Is it a place where I feel comfortable? Is it a small space that belongs to me? Is it a spiritual rootedness? Is it connected to a cultural background? And what characterises a sense of belonging? I documented how my children settle into a foreign home and how they fit in. I look into familial situations characterised by intense anger, sadness, jealousy, honesty, and loneliness. These simple actions and everyday moments continued popping up in a different “Homes” Ultimately they raise the question: Does the place impact our sense of home or does our sense of home impact the place?
You can take a person out of their homeland but you can’t take the homeland out of the person. In my work “Homesick” I look into the emotional integration processes of twelve female migrants from diverse backgrounds, focusing on their relationship to both their country of origin and their new homeland. I’m looking for ways to uncover and explore the hidden psychological land- scapes generated by the friction between the migrants’ old and new identities as they make the transition from one way of living to another. My working methodology fell into two distinct stages: 1.Photographing the participant’s old home. I made contact with the participant’s family who still lived back in the participant’s childhood home and visited them on my own. I then selected and photographed an interior wall with- in the home. On my return to Berlin I made a large scale 1:1 (life size) print of the wall photograph and hung it like wall- paper in my studio. 2. Photographing the participant. I invited the participant to my studio and photographed her in front of the huge two- dimensional photograph of their former home, using lighting conditions sympathetic to the background image. While shooting the portrait, I observe their body language and facial expressions, searching for a central point between the mi- grant’s past and present. I hope to get closer to the person’s soul, to peel back the layers of identity. The finished photograph is the result of a process of flattening, both metaphorical and actual. First I flatten their past and memories by selecting one image to represent all they left behind. Secondly, by photographing them in front of the two dimensional wallpaper, I flatten the migrant into their past. The illusion is almost sealed and complete but small clues reveal that all is not what it appears to be and the visual dissonance is slowly apparent. Homesick explores transnational mobility by playing games with time perspectives that emphasise the complex psychological issues and conflicts surrounding migration.
“When the child was a child,
the child walked with arms hanging down,
wanted the creek to be a river,
the river to be wide,
and this puddle to be the sea.”
(Peter Handke, Song of being a child)
The series “Pandora” was made in Berlin, over 4 years, where I have been living with my family since 2010.
Those photographed are my family and most especially my two daughters.
The series is a collection of individual images.
I am opening a hatch to my past and to my childhood; it is a diary process of finding out about my self by looking to my past in a retrospective manner.
I am searching for the lost, for the moments of this previous part of life that was covered up.
I collect my own remembered child- hood images in order to save them from oblivion once and for all.
I explored trailer parks in Berlin (Wagenburg), focusing on the people who live there. These are people who have chosen to live in trailers for ideological reasons; to live in the heart of the city but to lead a simple, non-bourgeois life, renouncing the rat race that accompanies big designer houses. For them, concern for the environment and ecology matters more than materialist aspirations. By themselves, they design the simple trailers in which they live, according to their personal taste and worldview. The trail- er residents live in closed communities, to which new candidates are only admit- ted after going through admission committees and interviews. Each community has its own common denominator. Among the sites that I explored, one was made up of women and transgendered individuals, one site admitted only members of the gay and lesbian community, and an- other site which just accepted families with children. With this project, I sought to expose and to reveal the German European spirit a simple truth and way of life. Questions about my own identity as a new arrival and outsider here, and sub- sequent thoughts about foreignness and alienation, naturally led me to look at others and examine them. I moved to Berlin almost decade ago, and for the first three and-a-half years I regularly visited these sites and slowly, very slowly connected and bonded with their inhabitants. Observing them as individuals from a personal and psychological perspective, I gradually built up a relationship with them that stimulated their curiosity about me as much as I myself found their identity stimulating myself. The fact that I was a stranger who didn’t speak their language and that they view themselves as sort of outsiders, enabled both sides to mutually examine each other and drew us closer. The analogy between my own life and theirs, creates a tension that exists in my photographs and in the precise moments I try to portray. I seek to find myself through these encounters. While observing others I see myself and through their perception of me, my own identity is revealed.
Twins - Duo Morality
The “Identical Twins” project was photographed in the village of Candido Godoi in the south of Brazil. The majority of the village’s residents arrived from Germany following World War I. The cause of the multiplicity of twin births in this village has led to worldwide research and pondering. One of the options considered was the involvement of Nazi physician, Dr. Mengele, who according to some testimonies escaped to this village following World War II. Some believe he used the knowledge he had acquired while performing experiments on Jewish twins during the Holocaust, in order to conduct research and clone twins in Candido Godoi. None of these suspicions have been con firmed, and the twin phenomenon remains a mystery to this day. I stayed in Candido Godoi for three weeks, during which I photographed ranging from two to eighty years of age. At first I searched for the joint identity and the bond that ex- ists between the twins. I tried to understand the intense connection created between them from the moment of birth, throughout the changes they experience during adolescence, and the complexity of the physical separation that takes place as they grow up, build a family and leave home. The similarities between the two gradually become the source of difference. The different facial expressions and body language convey the individual character and personality of each one of them. Slight apparent differences such as beauty marks, birthmarks or hair length become significant and valuable, to the point where life marks overcome genetics, and as years go by their resemblance becomes blurred and they appear to be less and less alike.
Home for special Children
“Home for Special Children” is the name of an institute in which I took photos in Rivne, Ukraine. The children in this orphanage suffer from vary- ing degrees of disability. My interest in photo- graphing this place came from experiences in my own childhood as well as previous projects in which I dealt with childhood and the transition to adolescence. Our encounter was one without words; their language, Russian, was foreign to me and so were their gestures and mentality. The camera and the action of photographing be- came the source of our connection and likewise the instants of photography became intimate, private moments, isolated and unique in the midst of their familiar daily environment. During my stay at the orphanage and throughout the realisation of my experience, I ob- served a place that was essentially an expression of Eastern European education, characterised by a polite restraint, and a certain strictness and nobility. The place formed a sort of microcosmos of Eastern European culture.
The innocence of a little girl over time turning into a young woman’s growing awareness of a her sexual powers. The natural world reigns all around, a raging sea nearby and a cowshed in her back yard accompany her transformations and coming of age as she tries to balance the forces of her own human nature, still childlike and virginal. Tenderness opposite intransigence. As in life, and in photographs, the inner experience is released and a new truth is created. I began photographing my sister because at first I didn’t have many other options. My sister was available most of the time and unusually obedient. As time went on I felt I couldn’t let her go. I be- came obsessed with her. I couldn’t imagine my- self photographing anyone else, though I tried, unsuccessfully. We met up every Saturday for some quality time, the camera always present, and at times assisting us by making the silence more comfortable. Neither of us is a big talker. The work was completed on its own. The images created a new reality, a life of fantasy neither of us had previously experienced. In my photographs I revisit my past and childhood, moving back and forth between my mother’s and father’s homes in the same village. Memories of that time have virtually been entirely erased from my mind and my past remains vague and blurred. My sister grew up in the house where I lived as a child. She was born after I left my father’s home to live with my mother, and immediately filled the void I had left behind. My bed, the mirror hanging over it and my writing desk were given the scent Her innocent and melancholy beauty is exhibited in the moment before it be-comes aware of itself and its surroundings, through my eyes, through my charged and complicated perspective. The photographs become life itself, yet more realistic and coherent. My little sister, Ella, is my main subject. She gives herself entirely to the camera, to me, and together we relive my child- hood. Now I play the role of rulemaker.
about the artist
Born: 1982, Israel, Lives and works in Berlin.
Shtainer photographs deal with childhood and family, beauty and transience, lust and suffering, life and death.
When she was nine-years-old her parents divorced.
This had an immense impact on her life. She was a teen-ager when she discovered photography and began documenting and staging private, intimate moments in her family’s daily life: “I was 15-years-old when I began creating my first project “Near Conscious” It took me 12 years to complete. Since then, the projects I create often focus on and explore different communities and social themes but a constant thread running parallel through my work is a deep interest in the relationship that individuals have to both their social and more intimate personal identities. My goal is to use my art to highlight positive societal changes by showing the individual, the outsider, and their behavior”.
She participated in the project “Art Vending Machine” at the Jewish Museum in Berlin and was invited to be a curator at the “International Photography Festival” in Israel. Her works have been published and reviewed in international publications, including “Dente Di Fotogra”, “Der Spiegel”, “brennpunkt”, “The Marker”, “Artberlin”, “Berlin Quarterly”
and many more. She has published the series: Homesick, Home Sweet Home (Airbnb), Pandora,Wagenburg,Twins – Duo Morality, Home for special Children and Near Conscious.