CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly

He lives in Israel and fell in love with Alaska: Gil Cohen-Magen, Israeli photojournalist. He came to speak at our University; he came to tell of his experience documenting the horrors of last years’ Gaza War. He came to share his passion for photographing the ceremonies and lives of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox.

Gil Cohen-Magen
Photojournalist Gil Cohen-Magen

I spent the weekend with Gil, introduced him to the Northern Lights, the Chugach Mountain Range and Moose’s Tooth’s pizza. During that time Gil said again and again, “It’s not easy.” It isn’t easy living in a country where war begins suddenly, where terrorist attacks are a regular occurrence. It isn’t easy being a photojournalist in a time of war, when your friends and your countrymen are dying. It isn’t easy covering those funerals, seeing the families weeping, remembering your own friends who have died. It isn’t easy knowing your children are running to bomb shelters to find safety from bombs.

It isn’t easy to live in Israel.

Gil grew up in Israel. He was born in Jerusalem. He has a family in Israel, a wife and three children. They leave as a family at least once a year. Because living in Israel takes a toll.

His son wants to learn to ski; Gil hopes to take him to the Alps in the spring to learn together.

Gil’s job has to negotiate the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

From his Cohen-Magen's "Shooting Under Fire" series
From Cohen-Magen’s “Shooting Under Fire” series

Gil says he takes pictures of even the things that are hard to witness because the world needs a witness, because the world needs to know what is happening.

People need to know. People need to see, this was the theme of Gil’s November 13th presentation at UAA.

Gil Cohen-Magen is an artist, he captures pictures that in their turn capture and captivate the eye. But Gil is also a journalist, a witness to history with the responsibility to make known what he sees.

From Cohen-Magen's Ultra-Orthodox series
From Cohen-Magen’s Ultra-Orthodox portfolio

The journalist, Gil, somberly spoke about how it feels to watch mothers weep over their children. The artist, Gil, stood in the frigid winter air at two in the morning capturing the Aurora.

Gil taught me. Gil taught us, those of us who met him, that life is a complicated thing, that the hard things are worth doing, that we have a duty to our fellow man.

He may be from across the world, but Gil Cohen-Magen may just have found his frozen paradise.

Contributed by University of Alaska Anchorage CAMERA Fellow, Maria Lilly.

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