Photo exhibit dramatically portrays authors and their words

ABOVE: Iris Nesher’s image, “Judith Katzir: Women I saw in the showers,” is among those on display in the exhibition ‘In the Dark Rooms’ at Bruno David Gallery.

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

Italian-born Israeli artist Iris Nesher’s photograph of writer Nano Shabtai gives new meaning to the phrase “it is written on her face.”

Nesher’s portrait shows the author looking pensive and bare shoulders, with a line of her writing in Hebrew rolling down her face like a tear. The image is striking, moving and powerful, evoking a sense of raw vulnerability and honesty, like all the portraits in Nesher’s series “In the Dark Rooms.”

Selected works from the series are now on display at the Bruno David Gallery, at 3721 Washington Boulevard in St. Louis’ Grand Center, across from the Contemporary Art Museum. The exhibit runs through Nov. 6.

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“In the Dark Rooms” focuses on the creativity of women. All the photographs are of women writers, poets and playwrights – with words chosen by the subject included in the image. Nesher included authors whose writing she admired, representing a range of national, cultural and religious backgrounds. Each author composed an essay to accompany the image.

Nesher is an internationally known artist who studied in New York and Los Angeles. Born in Italy, she moved to Israel as a child and later returned with her own children. Her work will be featured at the Jewish Museum of London next year.

“The (exhibition’s) name comes from two places,” Nesher said, in an interview. “First of all I really wanted to connect to that place, the magical place, of the creating a photograph, when you enter the darkroom and let the paper into the ‘developer’ the tray with the chemicals and suddenly as you are looking at it in the room with the red lights on and the image slowly appears on the paper. The second place (is) of our personal dark rooms of the mind.”

Reading the authors’ essays deepens the experience. While the essays are not displayed with the works, they are available at the gallery. Nesher deliberately does not translate the words in the portraits from their original language but the translations are available at the gallery as well.

“Photography is a silent art that tells a story through a visual, writing on the other hand comes from a ‘blind’ world with no visual, we make the picture in our mind as we read. By connecting these two art forms together I reveal what I see through the lens and the novelist reveals her words we created interdisciplinary world,” Nesher said.

The portraits are varied but many share the same lush, dark background and dramatic lighting. While most are dark, her image of Judith Katzir shows the author seated next to her granddaughter in a white bathhouse, with her words written on the white wall. Some portraits are simple, just the author and words, while others show the author posed in a complex, symbolic setting.

“Since my background is sculpture I try in my photograph to sculpt with the light like a chisel,” she said. “The face alone is considered a mirror to the soul but in reality there is not one muscle of the body that does not express variations within.”

Despite its small size, the Bruno David Gallery packs in some fascinating art, with this exhibit in the smaller Project Room the latest in a line of intriguing offerings. A handsome book of the works and the essays is available from the gallery website


‘In the Dark Rooms’

WHAT: Photographs by Italian-born Israel-based artist Iris Nesher

WHERE: Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard

WHEN: Through Nov. 6. Gallery is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


MORE INFO: 314-531-3030 or