Hally Pancer

   The Holy Land Trilogy   (1988-2001)

When words do not suffice to express a feeling or a mood - the picture comes to assistance. Modern photography has discovered a lyrical dimension in the picture. It is no longer limited to to the human form but attempts to penetrate  the human condition. Body language, facial expression, posture and background are all poetic crying out in anguish, bursting with love.

Hally Pancer uses the camera to give lyrical expression to the condition of man: poverty and old age, protest and suppression, determination and despair.

Hally’s main message is that life is very difficult. To contend with it is sometimes beyond endurance - but not beyond despair. Even in her saddest faces - there are lines of hope. Even in her darkness - there is light.

          Here is photography with the force of a poem.


        - Shimon Peres
        Former Prime Minister of Israel and Nobel Peace Laureate 

Hally Pancer’s People

Since the early straightforward and rather simplistic likeness produced during the formative years of photography, portraiture has seen a number of evolutions throughout the history of the medium. Among the important and influential phases, it is enough to remind Julia Margeret Cameron’s romantic sketches, August Sander’s environmental studies, the social documentary portraiture of the depression years and finally the modern images by living masters such as Avedon, Newman and Penn.

The history of photography in Israel is much shorter. The photographic record of the country, at least around the proclamation of the state, was due to immigrants from western countries who set the standards of photography. In portraiture, camera artists such as Helmar Lerski or Alfred Bernheim looked upon the residents from a distance, as Europeans lost in a different, alien cultural environment.

Although a contemporary photographer, Hally Pancer’s case is quite similar to these earlier practitioners of the art: in spite of her living in Israel for a number of years, she remains essentially American. Her vision of things, people and the country is that of a newcomer: to some extent distant and detached. As she is mainly concerned with social and humanistic issues, her eye is naturally attracted to people and situations that would arise questions in any society, to phenomena that would be unacceptable anywhere by any standards. Misery and poverty, class differences and social injustice constitute the essential part of her photographs. In this respect her art feeds on two major American traditions of social involvement, Lewis Hine’s concern and Dorthea Lange’s contemplative fascination with the subjects.

Pancer’s photographs of people are not just portraits. They touch simultainiously the fields of documentary photography and social criticism and comment. Her images are not of specific people, but one is tempted to say, about generic people. In a wider context, her images constitute a discourse about the human condition in any given society.

Pancer’s photographs are not stolen images. They are rather the result of tacit connivance between her and her subjects as they are often active participants in the photographic ritual. They willingly lead themselves to the invasion of the camera, at times with noticeable anxiety and visible apprehension, yet also with trust.

In her portraiture, Pancer expresses a visable anger against prejudice, discrimination and injustice. She does not intend, through a quixotic crusade, to right any particular wrongs all by herself; rather she is out to point at them, to focus attention on them and raise awareness. Through specific people she captures, Pancer tries to get forward a much more universal message about the human condition and shatter the boundries of social indifference, apathy and insensibility detrimental to any society’s well being and safe future.

Nissan N. Perez
Horace and Grace Goldsmith Curator of Photography
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
June 1992