Rachel Neiman
June 21, 2013

“Photography helps people to see,” the photographer Berenice Abbott once said. Perhaps that’s the reason that Israeli non-profit organization Eye from Zion chose photography as a primary medium for spreading its message across the globe and photographer Vardi Kahana as one of its goodwill ambassadors.   

Founded in 2007, Eye from Zion provides free medical treatment to needy populations around the world, specifically oculoplastic, cataract  and cross-eye corrective surgeries. To date, delegations have worked in Vietnam, Myanmar and Ethiopia. The organization’s mission is “to give the best medical aid, and at the same time, deliver a message of mutual humanitarian aid in the spirit and values of the State of Israel and of the Jewish Heritage.”

Kahana has been volunteering with the organization since 2009, “document[ing] the work of the doctors in the operating rooms: the poor conditions, the improvised equipment in the clinics, the local patients, the pre-and-post-op situation.

“The experience was overwhelming. Cataract operations are a simple procedure, and very common in the western world, but in countries with no public health care, people go blind simply because they cannot afford treatment.” 

In addition to documentary photography, Kahana also created a series of portraits, stating, “I was fascinated by the way people looked before and after their operations. the cloudy, infected eye, the mark on the forehead, the family escort, the tattoos.”

“In every clinic, I set up a tiny studio  where I took portraits of the patients. The arrival of the medical delegation in the villages was a big event,  so many local friends and relatives joined in my little studio and asked to be photographed as well.”

Kahana, who began her career as a photojournalist in the 1980s, has exhibited in both solo shows  and group shows. Her most recent show, Field of Vision, the portrait series from Eye from Zion, is now on display at the Yad LaBanim art gallery in Ramat Hasharon; it can also be viewed on Vardi Kahana’s website.

Visit the Eye from Zion website to learn more about this worthy organization.

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