Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens

Fifty-two shades of grey… color too

The second my eyes open in the morning, before I can even see straight, I scan my email, Facebook and Twitter on my phone. What do I really think I’m going to find there at 6:00 AM? And whatever it is, if it’s such an emergency, wouldn’t I think I would receive a phone call? Nighttime is no better. When I finally drag myself to bed, just moments after shutting down the computer that I’ve been glued to for the past G-d-knows-how-many hours, do I think that some life-altering tweet is going to appear?  Maybe there will be one more ‘like’ on my latest Facebook post? Seriously…

If even the sacred confines of my bed can’t divert my attention, what can? I have finally found something offline… sort of… that has my full attention.

Back in 2011 I noticed a cool, collaborative, weekly photo album on a Facebook page called Fifty-Two Frames. My creative spirit was drawn to it. I recognized some of my friends in Israel who seemed to be part of an elite, private photography club though I noticed amateurs among the professionals. I was captivated by these albums that followed weekly themes with cool subjects such as ‘Emotion,’ ‘Macro’ or ‘Weather.’ Each time I saw a new album, I secretly wished I could be part of this select group…

Fifty-Two Frames
Fifty-Two Frames cover photo on Facebook

One day I summoned up the courage to ask if I could join. I needed to demonstrate my ability so, as an amateur, I made a Facebook album of every decent photo I had ever taken, which I assure you didn’t amount to many. I sent it to the guy in charge; a man named Yosef Adest, and hoped to prove my worth. I waited with baited breath, as though waiting to get an exclusive job. Yet this was not a job, would not involve any money changing hands, though it promised to require dedication, commitment and a lot of time, something that, for me, was definitely in short supply.

Finally, I was invited to join! I was thrilled. I was also petrified. What if my pictures would be awful? How would I possibly find the time to participate? What if a theme required skills that were way over my head? But I’m not the type to be deterred by simple things like reality. I’m an ‘if there’s a will there’s a way’ kind of a gal and there was some serious will.

Immediately after being accepted, I received an email from Yosef: ‘Now here are the rules and regulations…’ were the first things I read. Rules? Regulations? Uh oh…  I found out that photos must be taken in the week of the given theme. Can’t use a pic from last year’s beach vacation for the ‘Sunset’ theme. Don’t even think about last month’s perfect photo of the kids on a train if this week is ‘Vehicles.’ Each photo must be fresh from that week to give everyone an equal shot. Fair enough.

My debut submission for "Transportation"; Week 34  of 2011, titled "People powered"
My debut Fifty-Two Frames submission for Week 34, 2011, theme: “Transportation”

I jumped in head first posting a silhouette of a bike for ‘Transportation’ in August of 2011. Since then, I have submitted a photo every single week without fail. Through holidays, vacations, business trips, even the week of my own daughter’s wedding. Nothing could stop me because I didn’t want to stop. The time it takes me each week can sometimes be many hours: Between planning and executing my shot, reviewing it and deciding it’s crap then trying again, agonizing over which photo to use, editing and editing until I am happy, and finally, putting the finishing touches on it – my signature signature (no, that isn’t a typo…), uniquely designed each week to suit or blend into the picture. And I love it all.

I can’t say that I don’t get complaints from my family members for obsessing over my photos. But I make up for it by putting them each in turn in the spotlight…sometimes two of them at a time. If I’m going to make my own ‘work of art’ each week, it seems only reasonable to work my family into my art… Besides, if I need a model, my own family is, well, right here…

Laura Ben-David - Natural Frame
My submission for Week 34, 2012, theme: “Natural Framing.” My two youngest children were my models.

In addition to pushing me to my photography limits and well beyond, I’m now in the fine company of some incredible photographers, located all over the world. Though the core group is based here in Israel, we have photographers in the UK, United States, Australia and other places. I see how each member interprets the weekly themes, often brilliantly. I see how these same photographers critique each other’s photos and I learn how these works of art could be even better. And I have the good fortune to have my own photos critiqued by these talented photographers too.

Something else, entirely unexpected, has developed as a result of my involvement in Fifty-Two Frames. Though 52 framers are all over the world, with the ‘base’ of Fifty-Two Frames being in Israel, I have found myself meeting fellow 52 framers in real life, over and over again. I have found true, satisfying friendships, and made real connections with some incredible people, and really enhanced my life on many levels through this astonishing outlet. 

52 frames gang
At the very first 52 Frames Photography Exhibition, March 2013 in Tel Aviv, many of us were there, quite a few meeting for the first time!

I can’t say that I am any less attached to my phone as a result of this project. After all, the pictures can be viewed from there as well. And of course the hours I spend obsessing over my pictures in Photoshop are naturally spent on my computer. But, somehow, while I debate the value of intensifying the color in a photo, or perhaps to just go with more subtle shades of grey, I am creating my own idea of a masterpiece. While I am doing something for myself, I am part of something greater.

About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.