The Online Photographer

'Seasons of the Moon' by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Reviewed by Quang-Tuan Luong

Season Of The Moon Seasons of the Moon, by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
Hardcover, 176 pages
Focus Publishing (September 2008)
11.5 x 9.5 inches

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Seasons of the Moon is a book of black and white photography mixed with essays and poems. It is structured around twelve key images, one for each month of the year. Each of those images is a striking and otherworldly scene that makes you wonder how it was photographed. Illustrating the title of the book, they appear to be nocturnal and mysterious, radiating spirituality with a feeling of moonlight, yet with plenty of rich texture and light both in the sky and land. Those images are nothing like what I have seen before, at least at this level of realization, where, presented as a series, they give the work a unique visual signature. Long after Ansel Adams and Edward Weston have passed away, many black and white landscape photographers still work in their footsteps. The images in Seasons of the Moon offer a refreshing departure from that classical style.

Season Of The Moon

I learned that they were created with a large-format camera using infrared film and digital processing from daytime exposures. The artist explains that using light that is below the threshold of human perception is a perfect metaphor for his goal, which was to convey the hidden beauty of the land of Israel, one that is seen by the heart rather than by the objective eye. Indeed, Seasons of the Moon excels at depicting a romantic vision of the "eternal" sacred land, with landscapes, scenes and places of religious Jewish significance (there are a couple of images of other places as well, including a haunting view of the Jewish Cemetery in Prague) mixed with close-ups and a few images of traditional Jewish people, while nothing about contemporary Israel is shown. A nocturnal cityscape of Jerusalem under a rich sky makes palpable the timelessness of this most sacred of cities.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the life of the artist, who created the text as well as the photographs in the book, for he brings a unique passion and understanding of Israel to this work. After a successful career as a prominent London music producer, with several "hits" to his credit, Yaakov Asher Sinclair left everything and came to Jerusalem to immerse himself in learning the Torah. After 10 years of dedicated study, he became a Rabbi. As such, he started publishing an educational newsletter with the same title as this book that referred to the connection between the astrological symbol of the month and the corresponding events in the Jewish calendar. The essays in that newsletter were to become the backbone of the book we're looking at, but, fortunately for us outside the religious Jewish community, in the progress of this project their importance was reduced to give a more prominent place to the more than 75 photographs. Thanks to his time away from the hectic demands of the commercial world, the Rabbi had rekindled his long-time interest in photography, finding a new purpose in his artmaking

As a book, Seasons of the Moon is very well produced, with a clean design and beautiful quad-tone reproductions. Besides being the artist's first book, it is also the inaugural book published by Focus publishing, a new venture of David Spivak, the publisher of the fine art photography magazine Focus.

Besides the twelve key images, the book somehow pairs other images with essays or poems. As such, the images and the text complement and illuminate each other. Yet I wished the designer had found a way to make the text sometimes even less prominent, maybe using fold-outs like in Rob Hornstra's 101 Billionaires. This would have allowed the images to shine without distraction for the non-religious, for it is sure that even for them, the originality and atmosphere of the images will make the book worth a prolonged look.