Down the Rabbit Hole: Janna Pak's Illustrations

Illustrations give life to stories that are bound in vernacular, they add another dimension to a tale that’s bound to a single medium. If it’s the illustrations that you find on the back of newspapers to tales told by our ancestors. The works of Roald Dahl are embedded within every westerner’s mind, for their vivid imagery and articulation of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach giving a pseudo-reality vision to a story with greater meaning.

When Lawrence Fishbourne aka Morpheus approached Keanu Reeves, Neo, in the movie “Matrix” whether he wants to see the Matrix with his own eyes, he used a particular comparison. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.“

Janna Pak photographed by Matan Eshel.

Janna Pak photographed by Matan Eshel.

During the Summer that just passed I interviewed a very talented young illustrator by the name of Janna Pak. We discussed art, the trials and tribulations of an arts student and her final project a personalized version of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Pak's Alice.

Pak's Alice.

Pak started her career at the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem but in her words “I’m an illustrator rather than artist,” and moved to study at Minshar in Tel-Aviv. Through my grasp of illustration, I do consider illustrators as artists due their renditions on stories and the physical act of illustrating regardless of their medium of work.

 

 

 

The Last Unicorn, a movie that was a blockbuster hit in the United States in 1982 was Pak’s initial encapsulation towards illustration. The movie gave Eastern art a western home and the visuals were innovative back then within the world of cartoon cinema. Currently Pak has an array of projects under her belt and the one that stand out the most      is her “Alice” project which took her only three months to complete. 

Permanent features on Alice include shoulder length hair and thick eyebrows.

Permanent features on Alice include shoulder length hair and thick eyebrows.

I felt connected to Alice and the journey to find the exact Alice I wanted to portray was a long road. I even started drawing with my left hand to have a clean slate to begin with.
— Janna Pak

When browsing the physical copy of Pak’s finished project, Wonderland feels different and authentic. Alice has very thick eyebrows, dark black hair and isn’t dressed like a beauty rather really really lost in an unknown realm. One of the most striking visual experiences of looking at the artwork is Pak’s mastery of water colors and her words you’re either master water color or it’s your worst enemy, in Pak’s case it’s a flourishing relationship that’s meant for eternity.

Creating space in illustrations is a struggle that many illustrators face since they want to have a palette of features in their work and there’s always a constant mantra to find the sweet spot for the creator. Coming from a visual arts background, minimalism is key, something that says a lot without projecting too many.

Previous projects that Pak had done dealt with typography and technology, even though her preferred method of work is manual. Mr. Sun was an app that would tell you the weather in nice or hectic way depending on the weather. The app was characterized by person giving the user a feel of connection to the product with the medium of a character. At end of the day, Pak has her own vision of stories and services offered by companies online and excels in her vision at least in my opinion.

You can follow Janna's work on Instagram and Facebook.

Pak gazing into artwork at Minshar College.

Pak gazing into artwork at Minshar College.


Undergarments, Religion and AR15s: An Interview with Michal Idan

As I arrived to a specific kosher café in Tel-Aviv, one of the few that still exist there, my interviewee had a noisey approach to the set location of the meeting. She didn’t scream or trip over her own feet, she just dismantled her Honda CBR. A month ago I interviewed the up and coming model Michal Idan whom is represented for D.A.L Model Management. We chatted about off-runway modeling, body image and religion.

Photography: Iddo Lavie Model: Michal Idan

Photography: Iddo Lavie
Model: Michal Idan

One of the most detached from reality locations in Israel, border lining Tel-Aviv is the city of Bnei Barak. This city covers up women in advertisements, closes down streets on weekends and has no bacon or pepperonis on its Pizzas. Ben Barak is an orthodox city that its inhabitants are composed dominantly of Israel’s Jewish Orthodox community. They live a fundamentally primitive life in midst of the technological thriving country known as Israel. Yet there are surprises.

Photography: Rita Yaroshever Model: Michal Idan

Photography: Rita Yaroshever
Model: Michal Idan

“I consider myself religious even though I mainly model bikinis and lingerie,” states Idan with a firm facial composure from the other side of our coffee table when asked about her religious identity. She has eleven brothers and sisters and even her older sister like her, modeled. 

Idan’s measurements (88-59-89, 171cm) aren’t runway minimum but she isn’t running after anything in high-heels. She has modeled as a actor since she was around 12 or so and in the recent years, with the sprout of her womanly figure, moved into lingerie and swimwear.

So what got a religious girl to start modeling? “My sister used to be a model and was the starting point in the modeling scene for me”. Kind of like a bat mitzvah in the Jewish culture, just with a little less clothes nowadays.

Photography: Benny Levin Model: Michal Idan

Photography: Benny Levin
Model: Michal Idan

Recently she traveled to Turkey and had her first international campaign. Another milestone under her belt is being a presenter for the lingerie company Bonita de Mas with three other Israeli girls (not Dafy Hagai’s). With Idan’s work being mainly seductive and skin baring it does come at a cost with her views about life and ethics.“It’s against everything I believe in, but I love it  dearly. It does contradict the values of a religious lifestyle and I [chose] let go off these values because modeling is a major role in my life.” 

It’s crystal clear that Idan knows what her strong sides are and she combines a religious lifestyle with lingerie and bikini modeling. She keeps sabbath and every other value your neighborhood religious woman does, just unlike the latter, she does it in style not looking like a Jewish woman from the 20th century. But what’s truly thought provoking about Idan’s character is that she knows she’s sinning or leaping over these rules for her career, but that’s between her and the man upstairs, not for the general public to judge.

Photography: Iddo Lavie  Model: Michal Idan

Photography: Iddo Lavie
Model: Michal Idan

Editorials that aren’t of the standard fashion oddities can be a fun experience for everyone involved. Recently she modeled for a website that sells gun parts by an Israeli company named Agilebits. She was in full kevlar and had a loaded Tavor (an innovative Israeli develop full auto weapon) with a bunch of accessories. Even models in Israel hold guns, not only its soldiers and settlers.

It was unclear to me why she cancelled our interview a night before its initial date but she was supposed to board a flight to Israel’s Survivor show filmed abroad. As a scholar of communications and being Israeli, I could tell you that the show’s production would have tokenized her for being religious and having her body in a bikini and not focusing on who she is, the Israeli media doesn’t have objectivity in its lexicon. Michal and her agent (Gai Tzurr) made the right move, for whatever the reason might be but demarcated the Kardashian role out of her narrative. What’s bold about Idan isn’t only her figure nor eyebrows its her capability to leap over the stupid mistakes sophomore models make in their first years of participating in the fashion industry. 

You can check out Michal's work on Instagram and follow her agency D.A.L on Facebook.

Photography: Iddo Lavie Model: Michal Idan

Photography: Iddo Lavie
Model: Michal Idan


This IsReal Podcast featuring Gefen Assor

This IsReal is a podcast that deals with contemporary Israeli culture broadcasted through IDC Radio on Tuesdays at 1PM (GMT +2). The show features a bunch of topics and I talk about aesthetics, art and design, basically anything visual.

I interviewed Gefen about being an Israeli model listen below from 44:30 for my segment. Tune in below!


Gefen Assor: Beyond the Eyebrows

Photography: Rotem Lebel Model: Gefen Assor

Photography: Rotem Lebel
Model: Gefen Assor

Israel is a country which is filled with a collective of beauty types. European, African and Middle Eastern, are some, each distinctly unique, yet share a common denominator. I had the privilege of chatting with Gefen Assor about her trials and tribulations as a model in the Israeli scene as well as her ventures around the globe. Gefen Assor, 18, is a professional model whom is represented by MC2 Model Management in Israel and various other world known agencies. She’s been featured on publications such as models.com, vogue Italy, superb magazine, and fashion forward.

Models.com describes her as “Israeli girl Gefen is as excitingly beautiful as Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine – but even Disney couldn’t improve upon this newcomer’s clear light blue eyes, dark caramel skin, and starkly striking facial features.”

Photography: Rotem Lebel Model: Gefen Assor

Photography: Rotem Lebel
Model: Gefen Assor

“I was signed to an agency after I won a Facebook modeling competition” states Assor from the other end of the microphone. Assor is a millennial, so her scouting story might be too contemporary for the older fashion crowd. Back in the day, models (and still) are scouted by someone in the industry that actually sees them and not their visual representation on their smartphone, but hey, the medium isn’t the message nowadays.

While the modeling industry has a very harsh definition of what “beauty” is, society tends to forget that every job has an aesthetic definition that its workers abide to. For instance  if you work for a fortune 500 company in Manhattan you must be shaved, at least your face. “People think that being a model is submitting yourself to a bad lifestyle, but it actually helped develop my self confidence” firmly states Assor while asked about her self-image. 

Photography: Jacopo Moschin   Model: Gefen Assor

Photography: Jacopo Moschin
Model: Gefen Assor

Through out her career her mother has always helped guide her and overlook her decision making, very responsibly, so it’s paid off. “People think that models give up education and hobbies, of course there are models like that, but a lot of models stick to their passions”. Assor’s strong personality is quickly noticed through her communication with the lens, she isn’t another titsy model with mediocre poses, she speaks her own language and so does her body non-verbally.  

The day I interviewed Assor was Arik Einstein’s one year anniversary since his tragic death. Einstein was a genius, he didn’t invent gravity, but he did define a euphoric image of what Israel is through his suttle music. “Yoni Rechter and Avyatar Banai are some of my favorite Israeli composers, the lyrics speak to me on a personal level and I’d listen to them when I was homesick abroad.”

Israel is a magical place filled with art, design and culture. Assor is a great persona and represents it better than most ministers who sit in the government.

You can follow Gefen on Instagram and her agency MC² on Facebook

Photography: Miguel Mor Model: Gefen Assor

Photography: Miguel Mor
Model: Gefen Assor


Cactuses, Pit hair and Israel: An Interview with Dafy Hagai

If Wes Anderson wasn’t a film director or a symmetry nazi and featured less teenagers, rather young adults in his films that would be a fragment of Dafy Hagai’s general premise for her
subtly provoking photography.

Photography: Dafy Hagai Model: Karin Kimel

Photography: Dafy Hagai
Model: Karin Kimel

Hagai is a 29 year old art director and visual communication counselor based out of Tel-Aviv and New York City, but above all a photographer. I sat down with Hagay over a bottle of Tubi 60 (a local Israeli hard liquor) and discussed her art. We discussed photography, Israeli girls -also the name of her newly published book- as the subject matter, the lie of the American dream and armpit hair.

“[I]nitially I picked up a camera to document trips abroad”, suggests Hagai from the other side of the broken benches found at Tel-Aviv’s nomadic bar “Teder”. Her photography radiates with that lonesome feeling you get on a family trip, as presented below.

Photography: Dafy Hagai

Photography: Dafy Hagai

Hagai’s work is a representation of the fragments of 90s fashion in the current 21st century which we are living in, there’s a feeling of less narcissism in her documentation of teenagers and young adults through the medium of photography. “I went to my old high school to scout for girls, some of them I met on the street and bars or social media.” “Israeli Girls” features a handful of aesthetically pleasing girls and women that aren’t pro models. Hagay was looking for the girls who are “naturally” beautiful or in her words “grasp the non-model look”. The models in her project don’t go through a daily ritual of applying make up to be confident and their natural gaze speaks it.

“I grew up in the 90s when teenagers got superstar status, a lot of my influence came from Larry Clark who has the suburbia aesthetics in his films, the boredom of suburbia.”

Photography: Dafy Hagai

Photography: Dafy Hagai

The project got a lot of different responses ranging from a social critique about the absence of Palestinian girls. Furthermore some commenters had a aesthetic problem with some of the models’ body hair. If you have haters you are doing something right is what I was told by a university professor and  Dafy’s book has been a success on several world known publications.

“Israeli Girls” will be available tomorrow at Casino San Remo bar in Yafo with attendance of Hagai and some of the models.
You can stalk Dafy on Tumblr and Instagram.

Photography: Dafy Hagai

Photography: Dafy Hagai

A Day with Rotem Lebel

If you’d catch a certain photographer working without a tripod, lighting and a MacBook you’d probably tell yourself how much of an amateur photographer said person is. Her name is Rotem Lebel a twenty year old from a suburb outside of Tel-Aviv and she’s one of Israel’s sharpest photographers in the high fashion scene and owns none of the above objects. This October I was fortunate enough to be on set with Lebel and several other talented fashion personas that make their vision come to life.

Photography: Rotem Lebel Styling: Moran Apter and Tamir Siman-Tov Makeup: Ela Ran

Photography: Rotem Lebel
Styling: Moran Apter and Tamir Siman-Tov
Makeup: Ela Ran

It’s 8AM and everyone is sitting in an apartment in Givatayim an outskirt of Tel-Aviv. The two stylists for the current set are Moran Apter and Tamir Siman-Tov, alumni of Shenkar’s fashion program. Around the floors and tables Harper’s Bazaar and Numèro magazines can be spotted in between the outfits which probably cost more than my college degree. While the camera equipment and outfits are being sorted the main attraction is being dolled up. Eden Paz a model from Yuli Group -an Israeli modelling agency- is being transformed into a Moschino like model by Ela Ran’s talented hands and MAC make-up. Extra value should be given to Eden since she’s a veteran. Yes, you read that right. In Israel it’s a law to be in the army and a lot of models face the decision whether to serve that law or to suffer the consequences like Bar Refaeli per say. From someone who’s served in the army, it’s pretty damn hard to maintain a figure or a thigh gap with army “food”.

Photography: Rotem Lebel Model: Nicole Shechter

Photography: Rotem Lebel
Model: Nicole Shechter

This specific photoshoot is a tribute to Moschino with overdone bright colors and shiny Tom Warrens. Through out the photoshoot Lebel communicated on a highly precise level with Paz and captured those timid yet appealing shots and it all felt like a non-cheesy Aqua video. The images do speak for themselves. What’s specifically appealing about Lebel’s work ethic is her commitment to the shot and literally showing the model what and how to do it. For example, there’s her trademark move and slant shot which is quiet hard to execute barefoot but she’ll guide the model how to do it in none other then six inch heels and won’t rest until she’s captured the right frame. While on set with Lebel she’ll need her space to get intimate with the model and make her feel at home. Lebel will bluntly tell the whole crew to take a walk or in her words “FUCK OFF” once they’ve invaded her set’s space.

Photography: Rotem Lebel Model: Shir Mizrachi

Photography: Rotem Lebel
Model: Shir Mizrachi

Working with Shir Mizrahi and Moran Apter, Lebel captures contemporary Israeli beauty through permanent features present on Mizrahi. The below is an example for Rotem’s extra sharp eye. Her feature with Mizrahi will be available on ACUTE’s next issue.

You can follow Rotem on Facebook and Instagram.