Zack Balber and Lamia Khorshid are local photographers. One is Jewish, the other Muslim. One focuses the lens outward, the other inward. One is a recent New World School of the Arts grad; the other teaches photography at the University of Miami. One is a product of mean streets; the other grew up pampered by her close-knit family. Both of their shows are up through early November a few blocks apart in Wynwood.
Zack Balber, 27, grew up in Pittsburgh, where his mother relocated after divorcing when he was a youngster. “Tamim,” his solo debut at Fredric Snitzer Gallery, features photographic portraits of fellow “bear Jews” he says inspired him to embrace his Jewish faith. That term was used by the Germans in the film Inglourious Basterds to describe Sgt. Donny Donowitz, who enjoyed beating Nazis to death with a baseball bat.
New Times: What does tamim mean in Hebrew?
Zack Balber: Tamim means pure, unblemished, whole, perfect, which is what these men are to me — perfectly imperfect, proud, unashamed, vulnerable, scared, confident, and insecure. To me, they are all tamim, effortlessly themselves, the good and the bad.
How long have you been working on this series?
The best answer I can give you is that God has probably been working on this series in me for a long time. I just finally had enough courage to step up to the plate and confront myself through the images of these men, the knights of my round table.
Where and how did you find these subjects, and how did you earn their trust?
The men in the images were all around me, metaphorically speaking. One flew down from Pittsburgh, and some of the guys I had to search for. The trust factor has been a work in progress for a long time.
How difficult was it to persuade these fellows to don the yarmulke you wore for your own bar mitzvah?
The yarmulke in Judaism is used as a constant reminder that there is something bigger than you, a God if you will. Searching for the yarmulke shots became cathartic. So in each image, I believe I captured these men in their own way publicly acknowledging God, even if they were not conscious of it.
Can you elaborate on how that notion of God struck you and what has changed in your life as a result of it?
I grew up in Pittsburgh, and the Jews I was hanging around were tough — some ended up in prison, drug dealers or the like. I was never proud to be a Jew growing up. I would let people assume Irish or whatever, because I knew that I didn’t have the “Jewish look.” As I got older, it became more and more evident that I have an undeniable connection with Jews as much as I tried to fight against it. Now I stand as one of my subjects in “Tamim” because I no longer have to hide to fit in.
Source: Miami New Times