PROFILE

Dafna Tal

A young female scuba diving instructor, wearing a black swimsuit and mask, freedives in the deep blue water of the Red Sea.

Canon Ambassador Dafna Tal finds underwater environments intriguing. In her latest project, Anchor Point, diving into the water represents stepping into the unknown, and the photographer aims to make her shots appear otherworldly. "I often rotate my underwater images 90° or 180°, giving the already space-like environment an even more disorientating feel," she says. In this rotated image, scuba diving instructor Lihi Abitbol freedives in the deep blue water of the Red Sea. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 21mm, 1/640 sec, f/5 and ISO800. © Dafna Tal

Canon Ambassador Dafna Tal's greatest passion is to explore our inner thoughts and emotions.

The Israeli artist's photography and video projects have seen her observe the life of monks living in hidden desert monasteries, conduct inter-religious experiments in Jerusalem, and search for a metaphorical anchor point in the deep blue water of the Red Sea. This richness of communities, themes and environments is perfectly expressed in her imaginative, beautifully lit and detailed images and videos. "The unpredictability of human behaviour adds a dynamic and compelling dimension to my work, so that I can never anticipate its final form," explains Dafna.
Dafna's work is regularly exhibited at photo festivals, galleries and events. One project, A Lasting Faith: Orthodoxy in the Holy Land, was displayed during a solo show at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 2018. Taking several years to complete, the series featured night-time photographs of holy sites, feasts and people, shot by candle or moonlight. The resulting images presented a religious world of ancient tradition, seemingly unchanged since its creation.

"Through photography, sound and video I gain access to, and knowledge of, new communities, subjects and themes," Dafna says. "Those become not only an inspiration but active participants in my work. My practice is an interactive, collaborative effort. It is a learning quest asking to gain access to different aspects of the human experience."
Location: Israel

Specialist areas: Portraiture, landscape and underwater

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS R5

Canon RF 28–70mm F2L USM
In 2019, Dafna created a video installation entitled You're Gorgeous, You're Mad, where she filmed a group of international artists gathered in Virginia, USA. The final work presents an inner dialogue between two aspects of the participants' personalities (or 'self-image'): the traits they appreciate about themselves, and those they would prefer to hide.

"In my projects I try to get a better understanding of minds and feeling," Dafna says. "Using diverse approaches, in-situation experiments and defined processes, I examine different ways of connecting to my subjects' experience, and gain insight into their identity, self-reflected image, behaviour and prejudices."

Dafna's most recent project, Anchor Point, explores the idea of letting go and the transformation it brings. It was filmed underwater – an exciting new environment for the photographer and a vital part of our planet. For the series, Dafna embarked on a new beginning, moving to a different city with a new community of people involved in freediving, watersports and the conservation of marine nature.
A young man with long hair freediving in the Red Sea while wearing red trunks and flippers.

Dafna says the technology in the latest generation of Canon cameras gives her more space to focus on the artistic side of her work, helping her to achieve exactly the right posture, angle and motion, as demonstrated in this image of freediver Nadav Ben Jacob. "I love to capture the moment of entering the water, with all those splashes and white bubbles. I feel they add a lot of movement to the photograph," she explains. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 20mm, 1/320 sec, f/4 and ISO1600. © Dafna Tal

Dafna explored other creative disciplines, including theatre, sculpture, painting and music, before finding her way to photography in 2006, when she studied at New York's International Center of Photography (ICP). She followed this with a European Diploma in Cultural Project Management from the Association Marcel Hicter.

The Israeli artist has no doubt about what the future holds. "I wish to have more and more flow in the process of transforming my project ideas to reality," she says. "I want to keep experiencing creative expression and enjoy seeing the ideas that emerge in my mind become real."
A female freediver is photographed underwater with bubbles in her wake after plunging into the sea.

Freediver Shoval Ravitzky is pictured plunging into the sea. Shooting underwater creates numerous technical challenges, from remaining upright in the water to a constantly shifting white balance. "Some of the scenes I capture may look simple, but we actually photograph them many times until I get a shot which I feel works for me," Dafna says. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens at 1/500 sec, f/5.6 and ISO2500. © Dafna Tal

You shoot landscapes and interiors too, but what is it about portraits that inspires you?

"I love exploring and finding incredible depth in the human mind and spirit. I am interested in the emotional and mental reactions that drive human behaviour, and the relation between a person's inner world and their outer reality."


What's been your career high point so far?

"The best moments for me are always in the process of creating new work, so every new project is for me a new pick. As for the process of sharing and exhibiting my work, my highlight is certainly when I was invited to put on a solo exhibition in one of the most important museums in the world: The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. What's more, Professor Piotrovsky, the museum's director, chose two of my artworks for the permanent collection."


What approach do you adopt when directing your subjects?

"In my artwork I try my best to connect with the real participants; to understand them and let them be."


Do you have a go-to shooting style?

"Every project has its unique visual or audio-visual language and requires specific lighting, framing, movement and sound that will best serve the theme and atmosphere. In that respect, the more one is able to use different lighting and techniques, the wider the 'colour palette' and freedom in expressing oneself."


You've exhibited across the world: what's your secret for creating a good project?

"In my projects I try to create an experience rather than a direct message, and I try to bring up thoughts and questions more than answers."

Dafna Tal's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Dafna Tal's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses, as well as accessories.

Camera

Canon EOS R5

The EOS R5's uncompromising performance will revolutionise your photography and filmmaking. Dafna says: "It has an amazing sensor and processor which gives, among many other features, high-quality data and wonderful low-light performance. It's a jewel!"

Lenses

Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM

Capture the world with outstanding flexibility and quality with a super compact f/2.8 telephoto zoom that incorporates a five-stop Image Stabilizer to ensure great handheld results. "Incredible quality and a super-useful lens," says Dafna.

Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM

A versatile high-quality 35mm lens that's ideal for street, travel and close-up photography. Dafna says: "I love this compact little lens – it's easy to carry and perfect for my gimbal video shoots."

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

Designed for photographing grand buildings, this lens has low distortion and edge-to-edge sharpness. "This tilt and shift lens is one of a kind," says Dafna. "It is wonderful for architecture and super-large spaces."

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