Overexposure On The Beach


“Not Your Typical Beach Days” (Feb. 24) details photographer Michal Ronnen Safdie’s interpretation of her subjects, Orthodox women on a Tel Aviv beach. She used her camera to capture what she called “tender, human, often humorous moments shared by these women.”

I choose to approach this from an entirely different perspective, starting with the name of the exhibit in New York, “Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday,” referring to the days designated by the city of Tel Aviv for the beach is open to women only. In other words, it is when they have earned their right to privacy.

But as stated in the article, after the photographer first noticed  “the oddity of this scene,” she came back with her digital camera and “her own modest dress.” Through her sneaky behavior, she managed to blend in as an Orthodox woman and “captured hundreds of them over four years.” That’s the longest Purim masquerade on record. All this time, these women trusted her. And how did she repay them? By betraying them and putting their most intimate moments on display for all to see. 

The exhibit catalogue includes an essay by Stephen Greenblatt, the Harvard Shakespeare scholar and award-winning author, who writes of the women photographed, “they belong to a different world.” Indeed, they do.

Did Ronnen Safdie consider how these extremely modest women would feel to be shamefully put on display? If anything, she contributed to their distrust of strangers. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t realize that they were being duped over a protracted period of time. Her end by no means justifies her clandestine means.

New Rochelle, N.Y.