For 18-year-old photographer Reef Avni, photography became a way to speak at 14 when words were hard to find, a tool against his social anxiety. His father, Hagi, was not only a strong supporter but also a frequent face in his photos, becoming an integral part of the narrative Reef was creating with his camera. The other constant in Avni’s work is documenting daily life in his Kibbutz. As a fourth-generation member of Kibbutz Be’eri, his roots were as embedded in the kibbutz as the farmlands and community his great-grandfather founded in the arid Negev in the south of Israel on the night of October 6, 1946. His grandfather was among its first newborns.
On October 7, 2023, the tranquility of Kibbutz Be’eri was shattered by a Hamas attack. Reef Avni’s father, Hagi, took up arms in defense but was tragically killed. While this unfolded, Reef, his mother, and his siblings endured 14 hours in a secure shelter as the building was set on fire. In a perilous rescue, they managed to save their young cousins from next door, who had just witnessed the murder of their family by Hamas militants. Adi, Reef’s mother, risked everything to pull the boys to safety amidst the terror encircling them. That day, Reef lost nearly everything—his father, uncles, cousins, and friends. The community that had shaped him and the home that had nurtured him were ravaged.
The fire that tore through his world also claimed his photographic work, turning his collection of captured moments into ashes. In the aftermath, with the smoke still lingering in the air, Reef returned to what remained of his home. Among the debris, he discovered the echoes of a previous life: a charred outline on the wall where a family photo once hung. This wire contour, shaped into the silhouette of a familial embrace, was the sole survivor of the inferno that had taken so much.
This was my home is not just an artifact; it stands as the defining piece of Reef’s new chapter in photography. At the very spot where his previous world ended, he found the seeds of a new beginning. This new phase of work is a testament to what remains after unspeakable loss: the indelible bonds of family and the enduring power of art to heal and bear witness.
Reef Avni’s photograph will be exhibited as part of Art For Healing, an exhibition at L’SPACE Gallery in Chelsea, NYC, organized by Aya Goshen, Lili Almog, and Rachel Khafif that includes over 50 artists. 100% of the proceeds from the fundraising sale will be directed to relief efforts and community rebuilding in the South of Israel through the charitable organization Spirit of Israel. For information and purchasing any of the art, please contact email@example.com
ART FOR HEALING Wednesday, November 8th, 2023 L’SPACE Gallery 524 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011