On April 11, 1909, several dozen families gathered on the sand dunes for a lottery — using gray and white seashells — to assign building plots in the first modern Hebrew city: Ahuzat Bayit, later known as Tel Aviv.
Exactly 110 years later, “Tel-Avivi” street photographer Ido Biran is releasing 1909, his book of 190 photos of the city he calls home.
“The book will conclude my work since 2014 documenting the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and creating its portrait. It will take the viewer into a visual tour along the city’s neighborhoods, architecture, beaches, street art and most importantly, its people, the ‘Tel-Avivim,’” says Biran, whose 39th birthday also falls in April.
“My vision is to bring Tel Aviv to the world while traveling with the book and sharing my passion for this vibrant unique city,” Biran adds.
Trained in cinematography and architecture, Biran first caught the photography bug during a post-army trip through Europe during which he shot 120 rolls of film.
After completing his education, he worked for two years in architecture and interior design. And then he took the bold step of quitting his job to devote himself to photography.
To capture his candid shots, Biran roamed the streets for four years, rain or shine, with an unobtrusive Sony Alpha 7R with a 35mm fixed lens.
“I photographed mainly on the street but also from rooftops, skyscrapers, the sea and while commuting on public transportation,” he says.
To support himself, he does commercial photography for urban companies; leads street-photography workshops around Tel Aviv; curates and produces exhibitions related to Tel Aviv; and sells souvenirs featuring his photos (available in local stores including the gift shop at the Bauhaus Center).
“I also produce branded gifts for organizations,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “I supply gifts to the municipality, and recently the Israeli tourist office in Scandinavia ordered coasters and magnets with my pictures from Tel Aviv as well as Jerusalem.”
Most of the photos in the nine-chapter 1909 book come from Biran’s “Urban Mosaic” collection of 250 images, exhibited to great acclaim a couple of years ago in the neighborhood of Florentin.
One chapter is devoted to pictures of Jaffa, the ancient port city that officially merged with the Tel Aviv municipality in 1950.
Biran has thousands of followers on social media, and recently ran a crowdfunding campaign to enable him to publish 1909.
The early April book launch will be at the Nahum Gutman Museum of Art in the artsy Neve Tzedek neighborhood. In the first half of the 1900s, Gutman developed a distinctively Israeli style of illustration, and his sculptures and mosaics still decorate public spaces around Tel Aviv.
“I chose this museum since the artist Nahum Gutman is one of my inspirations for creating a city portrait for Tel Aviv, as he created mosaics which describe and depict the beginning of the city,” Biran explains.