Adam Reynolds: Architecture Of An Existential Threat

by Flaunt Intern

Photo via Adam Reynolds

Photo via Adam Reynolds

Adam Reynolds is a documentary photographer who focuses on foreign political conflicts in the middle east. From his travels throughout Israel, Reynolds was able to capture the pervasive bomb shelters hiding in plain sight and was able to publish his work as a photographic survey titled, “Architecture Of An Existential Threat.” The book is prefaced by Danielle Spera, an Austrian journalist, writer, and director of the Jewish Museum of Austria. Reynolds was able to capture these shelters and found they are being constructed to continue everyday life. In his work, you will find how Israeli’s have designed their shelters to feature areas such as classrooms, art centers, religious synagogues, and even pub cultural centers. 

Bomb shelters are looked at as dooms day coverage, but in Israel, it has become the norm. Every Israeli is required by law to have a bomb shelter in preparation for any bomb threats. Even though It may not seem like the inevitable, in Israel they are always under constant attack and the day may not be known when they must take shelter. 

Since 1948 Israel has been isolated by its surroundings and acquired many enemies. Throughout Israel and their occupied territories, there are reported over one million private and public bomb shelters. With the constant worry of an existential threat, why not normalize a life protected from the outside? Israel has turned their shelters into a visual vernacular for anyone visiting. Adam Reynolds was able to capture the hostility and turmoil hidden within his photography precisely, and his emphasis on contemporary political conflict makes his book a true work of art.

We got a chance to ask Reynolds some questions about how he feels his photography is portrayed to others and his thoughts on his time in Israel, take a look.

What inspires your photography, Do you always have a message behind your photos and is it always the same?

I come from a photojournalism background, so much of my personal work falls within the journalistic/documentary genres. I have spent many years working and studying in Israel and the Middle East. As an American whose government is profoundly involved in that region, I create work that visually engages its complicated realities. Any message is largely dictated by the subjects themselves, but my own personal views can become evident based on what and how I photograph any given subject.  

Photo via Adam Reynolds - Shelter in the woods

Photo via Adam Reynolds - Shelter in the woods

What were you thinking about while photographing the bomb shelters in Israel?

My project “Architecture of an Existential Threat” looks at the Israeli national psyche by documenting the interiors of various bomb shelters found throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories. Over the course of three years in Israel, I photographed shelters using the formal aesthetic of classic architectural photography. My goal was to offer a broad cultural and geographical typology of the spaces. One of the challenges was to find ways to make these spaces visually engaging without becoming repetitive.

What do you want your viewers to take from your photography?

My hope is for viewers, no matter their own personal views of the Arab-Israeli conflict, to come away with a more nuanced understanding of Israel and the conflict. While this is a personal documentary project, I did approach it with the same sense of objectivity as a photojournalist.

Photo via Adam Reynolds - Entire station is designed to withstand incoming rocket fire

Photo via Adam Reynolds - Entire station is designed to withstand incoming rocket fire

How was your overall experience being in Isreal? What did you take from your time there?

I have lived and worked in Israel for over 5 years, so I know the country very well. While making this project though, I was photographing the bomb shelter spaces both during times of peace and times of war, and it was very interesting to see how Israelis reacted to the project itself under those very different circumstances.

So your photography focuses on contemporary political conflict, what intrigued you to focus on this?

My time as a working photojournalist with an academic background in political science and modern Middle East studies, has largely dictated my approach to photography today. The experience of working as a freelance journalist in both the United States and the Middle East continues to infuse my work with a more research-based, analytical approach towards image making. In a way, I am a conflict photographer who works outside of the war zone in order to explore the underlying causes and effects of political conflict.


Written by Alex Ceballos