The boy and the cat are photographed in Safed, Israel in October 2018. The blue coloured city centre is the décor of a young boy who tries to grab a passing cat. The boy is part of the orthodox Jewish community. I passed the scene by coincidence. However, I was able to make photos with the permission of the mother of the boy. ‘Early Memories’ has two things that make the photo special to me. The boy and the cat of Safed
The religious part
As young as the boy is, his appearance reveals his orthodox Jewish background. For instance, the long curled parts of his hair next to his face -payot- and the kippah on this head are characteristic for his community. It’s no surprise Israel is home to many orthodox Jewish people. While the orthodox communities in places like Jerusalem and Tiberias have little interaction with other people, Safed has in my experience a more open community. All the times I visited Safed it was possible -to a certain level- to make photos and have interactions along the way. As a consequence, the photos I made in this place are definitely ones that are special to me because of the contact with the people.
The innocent part
The interaction between the young boy and the cat is the second thing what makes this photo special to me. The body language of both the boy and the cat show interest and joy. At the moment, they approach each other with curiosity only. The attitude of the young kid is what’s typical of most young children. He feels safe enough to step in the world without any judgement, driven by curiosity. The young boy represents the innocent part of humankind: interested, joyful and without any judgement.
The two aspects together make this photo special to me: the young boy being part of the orthodox community and his body language of interest and joy without judgement. They show a human part of a community that’s mostly described in stereotypes and judgements. In every photo I make, I want to show the human part of people or societies in the Middle East that are mostly known by stereotypes or negative news. ‘Early memories’ does that, it shows the human part of religious society in a non-judgemental way.
The making of
I crossed paths with this boy by accident. I was already in Safed for some days when I was on my way back to the hotel. The kid and his friend -or brother- were playing outside in one of the narrow streets of the old centre when the cat passed. The boy got distracted by the strolling cat and followed the animal in an attempt to catch it. Something that never happened by the way. Not pictured are the boy’s friend and his mother, watching the scene from a distance. The cat didn’t bother about the boy but soon he or she disappeared out of sight. At that moment the boys continued to play with their electric cars and waved me goodbye as I followed my path to the hotel.
Read more about the orthodox community here: Shabbat with Kanye West.