Project BLESSED photographed in the barber shops of Boston, MA, USA was exhibited as a projection at The Night of the Year at the Arles Photography Festival 2019 in cooperation with Gallery Wipe Berlin. The projection can be seen here: https://www.rencontres-arles.com/en/galya-feierman
For 3 years I was travelling back to Boston, where I grew up, to take care of my ailed parents. The only real emotional outlet in this sad situation were the regular visits to a couple of local barber shops. At first it was just pure fun and a way to keep sanity through regular photographic practice, but then I started observing something very delicate, profound and precious that is really happening there. It was photographed at the VIP Barber Shop and EXCLUSIVE Barber Shop in Allston, MA, USA with the permissions of the shop owners and each individual subject.
The barber shop, besides it’s obvious purposes, is a place of a creative process. Beauty is the result of this process and its mechanism takes roots in a highly ritualistic interplay of energies and motions. The ritualistic nature reminiscent of artistic/ performative practices, religious ceremonies and sacrifice manifests itself throughout, in intent and attributes. The sacraments of cleansing, renewal, adornment, meditation and repeated visual tradition are performed with hand movements, blades, closed or focused eyes, robes, lights, the intentions of giving and receiving a service that is esthetic but also spiritual. The razor blade tool, ironic or divinatory, says “Blessed.” The concentration of energies is similar to that of an artistic creation or a religious rite: the energy of the barber, like that of a priest or an artist, is very focused, carving precise razor blade lines towards the final masterpiece of a cut, (and the emotional state of being of the client) and continuously scrutinizing his vision. The state of the client, on the other hand, is extremely relaxed and pure, as in a meditative, religious or esthetic trance that leads to a catharsis. Both are in a zone and in that zone a whole range of human emotions is clearly observed on their faces uncorrupted by the adaptation to the gaze of an onlooker. Admiration and self-love, fear, fatigue, artistry, imagination, concentration, memories, the love of the other, all of those come across a clear slate of a face in a trance, accentuated by the precise contours of the cut itself. Once the ritual is over, the saints and martyrs descend to earth, smile awkwardly and turn into the local shop managers, workers, college geeks and barbers; the life of the community takes over. However, their communion is captured by the photographer, the only woman in this temple of men. This project invites its audience to view the Blessed portraits as modern icons of an undefined, culturally and ethnically mixed faith, yet fully equipped with genesis and spirituality.