Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, art group and publishing company Sternthal Books is producing a coffee table book of portraits culled from the extensive archives of the Pri-Or Photo House in Tel Aviv. The photos, taken by famed photographer Rudi Weissenstein and his wife Miriam, document everyone from kissing couples to Israeli prime ministers, and capture an ever-changing Israel frame by frame.
Sternthal Books owner Ian Sternthal was inspired to embark on the project, named “Zalmania”–Hebrew for photo house–when he stumbled into the Pri-Or Photo House during a 2006 trip to the Jewish state. “I came across the zalmania when I was doing research on old photos of Tel Aviv for a project on Zionism I was doing,” the 33-year-old Sternthal tells The Times of Israel. “People are always interested in Rudi’s folkloric, scenic and event photographs of Israel’s early years but I was captivated by his studio portraits.”
Sternthal got to know Miriam, who was still running the shop at the time, and she communicated her desire to make a book of her husband’s portraits of famous people, like Golda Meir and Ariel Sharon.
Sternthal’s project, which he ultimately wants to include an e-book with digital footage and traveling exhibition, features notable portraits alongside regular citizens.
“The portraits provide fascinating insight into how Israeli society works and how it has changed over time,” Sternthal explains to The Times of Israel. “It’s amazing that the prime minister would come in to the studio and sit on the same wooden bench as a bar mitzvah boy or a newly married couple.”
Sternthal has already scanned some 3,200 negatives, and began editing the 30 hours of footage he captured inside the photo house.