Ronit Bezalel's first solo exhibition captures the humanity of Uptown's Argyle Night Market
By Jess Savage
Ronit Bezalel photographed only faces to capture her subjects' humanity in a single moment. Her first solo show, "Faces of Argyle," will be up at Everybody's Coffee, 935 W. Wilson Ave, from June 30-Aug. 31.
"Faces of Argyle" is a collection of photos featuring a mix of high-contrast portraits and flashes of vibrant dance frames, all in black and white. Bezalel took thousands of photos over six weeks at the Argyle Night Market, and she was tasked with narrowing them down to just a couple dozen.
She invited artist, writer, and curator Riva Lehrer to collaborate with her and provide creative direction. Reflecting on her experience working with Lehrer, Bezalel explained, "I wanted to work with an accomplished artist like Riva, who has an excellent sense of vision, visual sense, story, and curatorial skills… If you're [the one] editing the photos, you lose sight of which ones are good."
Bezalel went on to describe the dynamic between the two artists: "[Lehrer] was instrumental in making sure that images worked together visually and rhythmically...She also provided this energy and ideas that were great to riff upon."
The photo project itself began last summer. The Argyle Night Market took place on Thursday evenings through July and August. When Bezalel started to show up and take pictures, she felt almost like a stranger. As the weeks went on, she started to recognize and build relationships with the patrons of the market.
Bezalel asked every one of her subjects if she could take their photo because she "wanted to have that connection, get to know them, get to know their stories." Building a community as the weeks went on became natural, and she even noticed more people coming out to the market as summer progress. She explained, "word spread, and by the end, it was packed."
She was even comfortable enough in the final weeks of the market to venture out into the middle of the dance floor to photograph people as they moved to the music. These photos, marking a true development of community that summer, became one of the turning points for the exhibition's curation process.
On Lehrer's suggestion to intersperse the portraits with the dancing scenes, Bezalel described, "I am all about the faces, but she said, 'That's too many [portraits].' You have to break it up with the dance scenes, because people tire of faces."
Trained as a filmmaker, Bezalel approached her photographs in a similar way, but with an important distinction: "Images create a story. With documentary film, I'm guiding you through the narrative. With a single snapshot, it can be more ambiguous and open-ended."
Bezalel felt strongly about people being able to see these images, noting that, "There's something about the images that draw us in." Through the process of creating the portraits and including them in the exhibition, she hoped to honor the subjects and make sure their stories are visible.
The artist invited as many of those subjects to the show as she could; she did her best to collect contact information after she took their photo. But she thought that the best way to let them know about the exhibit is by returning to the Argyle Night Market this summer, prints of the images in hand.
Bezalel reflected on her work, and integrated her lesbian identity into her commitment to "celebrate people who are… unseen." She is interested in people who are at the margins of our society, and she captured a wide variety of the human experience throughout her project.
"Faces of Argyle" opens on June 30, with a reception from 6-8 pm.