Michal Ronnen Safdie’s photographs are noted for their diverse range, encompassing subjects from the natural world and the human subject in the center of socio political events.
Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Michal Ronnen Safdie was educated in the fields of sociology and anthropology at the Hebrew University and Brandeis University. Initially she took up architectural photography, specializing in architectural models photographed in studio settings as well as on location buildings.
In 1995 she embarked on a two-year project documenting life at the Western Wall. This led to the publication of The Western Wall, published by Hugh Lauter Levin in 1997, and a traveling exhibition, which continues to be displayed around the world by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
Her series of Anthropomorphic Trees began a journey exploring the natural world. Her first abstract series on Nature transformed familiar photographs of trees into anthropomorphic figures, male and female, sensual and tactile. Ronnen Safdie chose to use Iris prints on Arches paper, a process in which the ink is absorbed into the paper and captures the texture of its subject matter. This body of work was first shown at Salander O’Reilly Galleries, New York (2001), Robert Klein Gallery, Boston (2002), and Drabinsky Gallery, Toronto (2006).
In 2002 Ronnen Safdie documented some of the pre-Gacaca trials in Rwanda, which attempted to resolve the imprisonment of 100,000 perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.
In October 2004, she photographed refugees from Darfur in the camps on the border of Chad. These two bodies of work, entitled Rwanda: After, Darfur: Now, were exhibited at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles (2006), the Salt Lake City Public Library (2006), and Nazareth College Arts Center, Rochester, New York (2007).
The photographs of refugees from Darfur are also part of the group exhibit Darfur/Darfur, which has been exhibited at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, the United States Holocaust Museum, Washington D.C., the George Eastman House, Rochester, the Jewish Museum, Berlin, the Jardin du Trocadéro, Paris, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, among others.
In the series ice on the Charles River, the photographs became scale-less, alluding both to mega-scale of icebergs or fractal patterns of shoreline. In this series the medium of abstract photography is used to evoke the current concerns with global warming and the threat of meltdown. Ronnen Safdie’s photographs of ice on the Charles River were once again Iris prints, exhibited at Robert Klein Gallery (2005), Drabinsky Gallery (2006), and David Gallery, Los Angeles (2007).
Turning to the Sky, her current project, she captures vapor trails, which she uses as commentary on air traffic and our occupation of the atmosphere. The prints are ultra-chrome on rag paper.