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Rona Bar and Ofek Avshalom are a Covid couple, the very first day of their relationship was also the first day of lockdown in their native Tel Aviv. The experience of being a couple during lockdown had a distinct duality to it. On the one hand, it was an unprecedented phenomenon, and on the other, it was something that millions of us had to endure simultaneously. A similar dichotomy can be seen in Rona and Ofek’s personal Covid experience; whilst the pandemic put a halt to all of their commercial photography, it gave them the time and freedom to birth their project Us.

The aim of the project is simply to document couples from across Rona and Ofek’s native Israel (and potentially further afield). But, by always photographing the subjects in their own homes, using natural light, and having another couple behind the camera, the collection has been able to achieve a heightened sense of intimacy, and more crucially, honesty. Now, with the world slowly and tentatively going back to ‘normal,’ we look back on how the project has developed so far, and where it looks to be headed.

The idea of capturing true intimacy on film seems somewhat paradoxical; even subconsciously, the notion that a couple could maintain completely unaltered habits in the face of a camera is a bit farfetched. However, Bar and Avshalom have two key measures in place to counter this problem and pierce any barriers of superficiality. Primarily, they “believe that communication before the shoot is really important”; by establishing boundaries with couples and familiarising them with the project beforehand, the intentions of the shoot are clear from the get-go.

The other key component to achieving honesty is the gift of time. Any seasoned photographer will tell you that deadlines are the enemy of informality. By working on a very relaxed timescale, Bar, Avshalom, the camera, and their subjects all have ample time to become acquainted.

A testament to the degree of candidness that was achieved in the shoots is the lasting friendships that have been born. They told us that the willingness of these couples to let them “capture a glimpse of their personal life’ meant that ‘an instant connection was formed.” Given the insight they offer into the lives of other couples, I was curious about the dynamic of their own relationship, particularly the balance between the personal and the professional. The stability of the personal relationship allows a fluidity in the working one, with an everchanging powerbalance dependent on the project at hand. “We find it possible because we trust each other and put ego aside”, they remarked.

The future of Us could go a number of ways. Although the photographers told us that they “love the project as it is now and are ready for it to be published,” they are also keen to continue broadening the scope of the collection, potentially even expanding abroad. There have even been considerations of the couple including themselves in the project, although the best way to execute that is a point of contention for them.

Furthermore, the seclusion afforded by the pandemic, which both inspired and enabled the project, appears to be seeping away. Despite this, the couple have come to realise that the resonance of the photoset is timeless, and whilst it may have been enabled by lockdown and the pandemic, it is certainly not confined by them.

Harvey-Byworth Morgan
Rona Bar and Ofek Avshalom

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