ISRAELI NATIONAL Amit Turkenitz lives in the northern part of Tel Aviv with his Australian wife Jo. Walking through their street I pass many multi-story apartment buildings lined with palm trees, flowering vines and school kids running around in the afternoon heat.
Photographer, Amit’s aim, as his website states, is to be ‘a fly on the wall’. His idea is to spend time with a person, family or friends for longer periods and document their lives with stills and film. His highlight from his work so far can be viewed here.
To make a living, Amit is one of the many photographers who dip their toes into the wedding market. However, having only started his company a year ago, he ultimately wants to tap into a more personal and documentary style of photography not yet done in Tel Aviv, and probably just as unique internationally.
But that’s not all Amit is working on. Amit met his Australian born wife Jo, in a chance meeting two years ago in a Vietnamese cooking school. They married and Jo relocated to Tel Aviv, upon which she needed to learn Hebrew quickly – not an easy task. They realised that when learning a language, it’s the simple things that prove useful – like paper stuck to the walls all over the apartment. It was after Amit did just that to help out Jo, that they decided to create ‘Stick Around’– A set of 500 word stickers that have English-Hebrew translation. The prettily packaged stickers, which cover all objects and rooms in the house, come in a well-designed box, that blows away all notions of schoolrooms and blackboards.
Amit has always been driven and looked for ways to make the most of his situation. Raised with his sister, twenty miles outside Tel Aviv, he used his first serious military paycheck to move to the city. Amit tells me that military training can go one of two ways for Israelites, “Either you are classed as fit and able to train for combat, or you are damaged [disabled] and have to take part of the ‘combat supporting’ activities”.
“They assess you for your ‘Potential’… I was asked if I wanted to do High-tech (IT), which meant an extra three years in addition to the compulsory three... Unlike others, I knew that my military service would be the first step of a profitable career, so I agreed.”
This was a pretty ambitious choice, as he told me, “It was 1997 and I had never owned a computer so my knowledge was non-existent.”
Amit left the army in 2003, and after a year working in computer programming, he was looking for something that better suited his earlier artistic passion. So, he quit and began working and training as a filmmaker. Amit’s first solo film, ‘Another Day’ was submitted to film festivals around the world and won first prize at a Melbourne short film festival. This skill as a filmmaker can be seen in his photography style, especially in his documentary approach to capturing his subjects.
For now though, Amit and Jo are focussing on the business side of things, both Fly on the Wall and Stick Around. Amit tells me he originally allowed himself a year to assess the success of each business. They are still stuck in a middle ground with both, as the stickers proved popular in Tel Aviv, selling out in its first batch, but the money is still tight. They are refining their product though, and Amit and his mentors see potential in the start-up.
Amit and Jo now live in what is now dubbed ‘The White City’. Since its colloquial naming, some of the buildings have been given a fresh coat of paint, yet most buildings in the area appear dilapidated. I am surprised to hear from Amit, that something that putting more pressure on the business is that rent in the city compares to cities like New York and Sydney, something I hear later from many other Tel Aviv locals.
As is common for most creatives starting out, the whole business side hasn’t been an easy process. Yet with passion for the product and service, support from business mentors, and no doubt every new entrepreneur’s slight blessing of naivety, the potential he sees, is no doubt what’s going to get him through. Nonetheless, as a good friend always says “Good things take time”.
Edited by: Angharad Jones