Omer Ga’ash has a unique outlook on how the human body is perceived in a natural environment. His interest in graphic design guides this interesting perspective; allowing him to see the body as a shape, with all its curves, lines, edges, and symmetries. His work is beyond the glorification of the body. It’s not about that. It’s about the symbiosis of the body and the environment which surrounds it – a way of colliding the two, allowing them to complement each other, thus creating a metamorphosis of space and shapes.
With a background in architecture, mapping and aerial photography analysis, as well as a deep passion for shapes and movement, Omer is able to see something which many of us miss: the way our bodies can be transformed into textures. By implementing his knowledge and personal experiences, Omer is able to convert his models into something much more than a nude human body. Allowing his mind to drift in search of repetition, improvisation, attraction, continuity, flow and scale, Omer sculpts the nude body into the space, creating a true piece of art which is both natural and infinite.
So, let’s jump right in. You seem to be quite fascinated by the human body, which is something that can be clearly seen in your nude photography. What do you find so special and unique about a nude body, compared to a fully dressed one?
Jumping right into the main issue isn’t it? Well, nude was always out there, that’s our basic form and a lot has been said regarding nudity. For me, I grew up exploring of the changes in my body and was drawn to it even in my early years, before using photography as a medium. As artists we create from within, and naturally, I chose to create with what was on my mind at the time, which was me as a subject trying to express my admirations or concerns. This is an obsession, and I do call it that, because it requires an obsessive amount of devotion in order to fine-tune and perfect the outcome. That’s why I always feel like clothes, for me, relate to fashion or a specific story, and by addressing only the body and its environment, I can tell so much more - and it’s timeless.
One can notice that in the many nudes you photograph, a vast majority of them are very muscular, male bodies. In your point of view, as someone who is capturing a work of art, what role does a 'perfectly shaped' body play?
It goes way back to when I was in my teenage years. I used to do ballroom dancing and I competed for six years, later on I moved to a modern folklore dance company. Having this set of skills and knowing what our body can do, it’s easy for me to imagine and direct people using those abilities. Moreover, my Bachelor of Arts is in Visual Communication and as a graphic designer, shapes are a big part of my perception and way of imagining the frame, so it makes my approach more about the human shape and less about the face. I do have photo shoots planned with older models, but again, with flexibility, strength, or body awareness of some sort, as I focus on mapping a place and the interaction between the person and their own body, others and their surroundings. It is very important to me.
A very intriguing project you have done is Nude Texture, where you take your nude subjects and transform them into textures, which can then be applied to various textiles, wallpapers, etc. Where did this idea originate from?
Nude Texture is a fusion of both my passions: graphic design and the human form. It took a few tries at the beginning; I wasn’t sure whether to include just one model in a plain studio, or create outdoor shoots, where I can also use other elements the model can interact with and later include that in my editing process. Now I’m working on so many different ideas based on that DNA alone, the possibilities are truly endless - video projection, glass prints, LED screens, fabric printing and other materials. It’s going to be wild.
Sounds super exciting! Can you take us through the process which begins by photographing a nude body, up to the moment it becomes a texture printed on, let’s say a pillowcase, for example?
My process usually starts in my head. Maybe I have something that I saw or something that interested me to try. It could be a song or a nice walk with a good friend; the trigger can come from anywhere. I love doodling in my sketchbook; it’s good to have a base to start from, but I’m a true believer in spontaneity, and so even if I have this one vision in my head, on the set anything can happen, especially when working with creative people like dancers. After I have the few potential frames, I start playing with the composition, adding colours or other elements. Once I have the texture, the ideal process will be that I send it to the printer, which is followed by sewing and shipping it to my clients.
That is fascinating. In your Nude Texture work, were there any interesting design offers which you received from major design houses? Is it something that might be interesting for you to explore?
I have a few offers, and things are on the move but nothing final or that I can speak about in more detail I’m afraid, but it definitely will be a project to look into in a couple of years from now. I’m aiming for the fashion market and interior design. But honestly, without setting my expectations too high, I think this project is something that can be implemented on an endless number of things.
You seem to also be very passionate about graphic design. How do you perceive the connection between graphic design and photography? And where do you think lies the advantage of you practicing both disciplines?
I’ve been creating brand’s visual language for companies since 2006. It’s part of who I am, including when I'm picking up a camera. My approach as a designer is clean and simple, I’m like that in my private life as well. The fact I never properly studied photography but rather used the medium in a way free from convention, allowed me at the beginning, to focus on a physical level with my models. It’s not that technique is not important to me, but it is secondary in my exploration. When creating a brand, you look to have familiar elements in a new combination to get that unique DNA, and in a way, photography is not very different.
As a photographer, working with people is most likely quite different than working with still objects – people tend to produce more opinions and quirks compared to buildings or trees. Can you share any interesting anecdotes or unpredictable stories which happened on a set?
Working with people is one of my favorite things. I have discovered surprising and interesting poses during sessions; people are so creative and talented. I also had two models become a couple after meeting on my set - and someone who cried on set realizing how much he needed this photo-shoot to express himself naked. Many of my models have kept in touch with me; we became really good friends. It can be such an intense experience, that sometimes it creates this special bond. These are things I never imagined would happened and I’m thankful for these moments every day.
Indeed it does sound like a powerful experience. One thing that captures my eye in your work is how many of your photos, where nude bodies are present in a natural environment, seem to portray the body as a symbiotic part of nature around it. What is the source of your inspiration, which allows you to envision the picture which you want to paint with your camera, before you hit the shutter?
Traveling was always something I did and loved to do, with my family and friends, around my country, Israel, and abroad. Every year there was another destination to discover. Only years later, when I engaged with photography, I realized how much my architecture studies and my service in the military as a photogrammeter, contribute to the way I look at the places I’m visiting. In a way, architecture made me pay attention to structure, the geometry of a space, and my work with aerial photos, maps and symbology in the army, made me look into describing the terrain’s reliefs and surfaces. In a way, this is how I see our body, as a means to tell a story about us as humanity, but also describe a place. I prefer to use the body in a way that almost eliminates the individual, so it is less of a personal story.
I see. Are there any specific bodies of work which influenced your perspective and made you go in this direction?
I have many artists whom I appreciate and am drawn to their aesthetic and their way of thinking. It changes as I evolve. Painters, photographers, sculpture artists, performers, and others. To name a few: Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, Francisco Goya, Eadweard Muybridge, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ryan McGinley, Will Dorner, Antony Gormley.
Take us back to your youth, to your first camera and first photos. What were they like?
Really bad. So naïve and raw. Nothing like what I look for today. But, they reflect something that was interesting to me from day one – the human body. I had this Olympus camera with a flipped screen as the viewfinder, terrible quality, but it had a timer and so I could do tests on myself. I grew up in a small town In Israel, next to the Mediterranean Sea, and nature was always within arms reach. That was where I found my quiet place to do my testing, get lost, forget time.
You have studied in the well-known Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication. Next, you moved to London and established yourself there. Why did you make the move from Israel to the United Kingdom?
Between graduating from Bezalel Academy of art in 2011 and the decision to continue to my MA in Design expanded practice in 2020 a lot had happened. I felt like I needed to come to this stage ready and with something to say; with my language as a designer being more defined. I have a lot of respect for what I had in Israel – my clients, the projects I was part of and the trust I gained from people I’ve worked and created with. But now that my photography is my main goal, I believe I can develop better in London. Combining my studies with growing my network, and body of work, abroad seamed the perfect opportunity for me. It felt like it was now or never.
On many occasions, it is not easy to leave your home, your friends and family, and move to another country in search of a better future and opportunities. How was your personal experience in that regard? What were your fears before actually moving? Were there any second thoughts when you initially arrived in London?
Personally, I admit this process was one of the most challenging I’ve ever had in my life, on every level; financially, emotionally and physically. Starting by making the decision and applying to four establishments - I got accepted to all four, then my timing forced me to move out of my home in Israel 4 months before flying to London. During this time, even without my place or my car or my things, I managed to continue designing for my clients, going out for photo shoots with models and maintaining my personal life. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it will be worth it. Today, I live in a studio apartment in Hackney Wick, the artistic East side of the city, and I’m loving every moment of it. Ever since I moved so many things have happened to me – I've made connections, found locations, talented beautiful models, and people that show interest in exhibiting and buying my art. It’s only the beginning.
It seems like in photography, and in any art form for that matter, there are no limits as to where an artist can go. What are your ultimate goals and dreams?
As I managed to articulate to myself in recent years - I’m mapping environments in relation to sculpted bodies, and I intend to keep doing exactly that. I hope that by doing so, I’ll get to interesting places and create with talented people, believing that my art can be presented in exhibitions, office buildings, houses and help promote different companies and institutions.