Modern Times

© Robert Rathe

“You can’t go to a place like that and not be aware of the symbolism all around you,” Robert Rathe says of the northern Israeli town of Safed, where he spent a day exploring and looking for photographs.

“When I found this area, I pulled all the elements together—light, shadow, textures, the barbed wire—and then thought, okay, what else do I need? And then, okay, that’s what I’ll wait for.”

What he needed and waited for was a subject who would make the photograph more than a picture about light and shadow and more about the sum of its elements of society, culture, and history. “Kids on bikes would have worked, or a mom holding a kid’s hand—that would have been great, too. But because there were a significant number of Orthodox men in the town, that was the element I was hoping for.”

He took two frames as this man walked past. “He didn’t seem aware of me, and was certainly not concerned by my presence. He had a cigarette in his right hand and was looking at the cell phone in his left. He was very involved in whatever it was he was doing.”

Robert knew from his first look at the location that his photo would end up as a black-and-white image, as that, too, would add to the emotional resonance and symbolism of the photograph.

Robert Rathe’s website,, offers a selection of images from his corporate, editorial, personal project, and travel photography.