Sometimes you hear a person’s story, and it doesn’t seem possible. As one comedian says of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he moved to America, became famous for lifting weights, starred in a few movies, married a Kennedy and got elected Governor of California. If Hollywood put that into a film, no one would believe it.
Photographer David Salomon is another seemingly impossible man. He’s an established real estate developer, who as a photographer has a degree of notoriety in some circles. His 2011 photo book Penguin-Pedia chronicles his journey photographing every recognized species of penguin. He was the first to do so, and while he didn’t become a household name, he is recognisable to many involved in research and conservation of wildlife.
The publication of Penguin-Pedia, later resulted in two children’s picture books published by Random House. These books are part of the Step Into Reading series, that often leverages celebrity authors, like John Cena and astronaut Scott Kelly, or franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Lion King.
It’s fair to say he’s a successful wildlife photographer. When a camera crew met up with him, he was preparing for a showing of photos of historical sites in Israel at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, TX. The museum showcasing his work – following the pattern of things related to Salomon – is more interesting than a surface description implies.
The Museum of Biblical Art is quite a large, relatively new facility. The original museum burned down in 2005, taking with it 2,500 works of art. After that fire, the museum which first opened in 1966 was rebuilt and reopened in 2010. It now houses The National Center for Jewish Art, The Museum of Holocaust Art, European Art Treasury, and an on-site Art Conservation Lab.
Salomon’s photo exhibit showcasing Israeli national parks, is unavoidable in the Museum. His work is shown not only as an exhibit, but lining nearly every hallway in 30,000 feet of space.
Salomon, who is from Israel, says he’s been a lifelong photographer, since his father gave him a Russian version of the Leica camera called the Zorki in his youth. He spoke of traveling in his childhood with his family. Like most Israeli men, he served in the IDF (Israeli military).
He was part of the somewhat infamous Golani Brigade for four years, between 1970 and 1974. During that time he says he took very few photographs. If you were in the U.S. Army you may well have studied the tactics used by the brown beret wearing soldiers of Golani in both the Six-Day War and in the rescue at the Entebbe Airport known as Operation Thunderbolt.
Salomon said that he left Israel for the United States as soon as he was out of the IDF. Recalling, being discharged on a Sunday, but he couldn’t say if it was Monday or Tuesday when he Landed in New York. The U.S. has been his home since that time.
When he spoke of his photographs of the parks, all of them having been taken in the past two years, he spoke with a reverence and historical knowledge likely matched by very few people. Salomon speaks also of photography in the tones of someone mentioning an old friend.
Asking the question, “what was it like moving from film to digital photography?” cannot really have a short answer. Such a question asked of anyone not selling you a new camera in the early part of the century calls on experience spanning a lifetime. Our interview skims the surface of a man whose life is full of interesting tangents and side streets. Here is however a short video.
Header Image: David Salomon