We were suggested to take a look at Yemeni Field, a subjective reportage by 25 year-old Slovakian photographer Mia Köhlerová, by photo editor Petr Toman (would you like to recommend someone as well? Feel free to reach out). For this series, Mia joined the Israeli army as a volunteer to discover why “real” volunteers, and particularly those who are not from Israel, choose to put their efforts into supporting a foreign country; aside from that, the photographs strike for the quiet and almost romanticized way they capture life in the camp, offering a different angle on what we usually visualize when we think of armed conflicts.
Hello Mia, thank you for this interview. What are your main interests as a photographer?
I’ve always had a passion for visual beauty, and since I was a child I’ve cultivated a strong interest in all stories that lie on the boundary between reality and fiction—or as I sometimes like to say, reality and reality. About ten years ago, after gaining knowledge of both mythological fairytales and stories and a deeper understanding of classical visual arts, I tried combining the two worlds through the medium of photography.
Please introduce us to Yemeni Field: why did you decide to join the Israeli army as a volunteer?
Yemeni Field is a completely apolitical project. I was intrigued by the growing number of people, hailing from the most disparate locations, who every year join the Israeli army as volunteers. I was hoping to capture the motivations that make individuals with no previous connection with Israel decide to show the country their support in some of the world’s most dangerous places. Asking them questions and listening to their life stories I realized they were brought there by the most different reasons, but they had one thing in common: a shining passion, a glow they all possessed. He who lives without passion is not thankful for the gift of life—these people are celebrating life in a place where life dies.
What inspired Yemeni Field?
I started working on Yemeni Field out of my interest in the broader study of Israeli contemporary photography: I find it fascinating how art can stem from a context that does not promote emotional stability, and how extreme situations can affect the making of art.
Why did you shoot most of the Yemeni Field images at dusk?
The answer to this question is pretty straightforward and not as romantic as one could think: as I had to work as a full-time volunteer, my only free time was at dusk.
Can you talk a bit about your approach to Yemeni Field? What did you want your images to communicate?
The emotions and life stories of the strange, beautiful and confused people who looked for whatever it is they were looking for, and for whatever reason, in such a place.
Did you have any specific references or sources of inspiration in mind while working on Yemeni Field?
No, I did not have any specific references. At that time I was studying contemporary Israeli photography, however I feel I went a completly different way…
How do you hope viewers react to Yemeni Field, ideally?
I hope they will view it as an apolitical attempt to capture the emotions of people on the line between heroism, horror and confusion.
What have been the main influences on your photography?
All sorts of visual arts, all that is beautiful, my family and dead foxes.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary photographers?
I actually look at painting much more, but when it comes to contemporary photography I like the work of Karolina Karwan, Niko Giovanni Coniglio, Erwin Olaf, Martin Kollar or Jana Gombíková.
Choose your #threewordsforphotography.
Intuition. Magical. Frozen.