Born in Meknes, Morocco in 1945, Jacob Elbaz and his family emigrated to Israel in 1953. They arrived after spending two months in Marseilles in a transit camp for immigrants. In Israel, the family lived in a shack, with no running water, electricity, or toilet. Food was rationed. After two years of living in these conditions and with the consent of his parents, Jacob and his brother Shlomo were taken in by an Israeli welfare agency and sent to live in the Upper Galilee on Kibbutz Sde Nehemia.
The (mostly agricultural) Kibbutz provided basic education for the children and taught them how to work the land. Jacob, challenged with a learning disability, spent most of his time outside, and never finished elementary school. It was on the kibbutz where Jacob learned to love his adopted country, where he ultimately served with great honor and patriotism. After completing his service in the army as a paratrooper, Jacob returned to the kibbutz to work. At the age of 20, with the money he earned, he bought his first camera.
In the winter of 1963, the Jordan River flooded surrounding areas. Jacob waded through the water, placed an old chair in the middle of a flooded field, placed a cat on the chair, and took a photo. He gave the film to an agent and, to his surprise, a few days later his photo was published on the front page of a weekend magazine of the published newspaper Yediot Ahronot. At the time, Jacob didn’t know that people could receive payment for published photos. This was a pivotal moment for Jacob and launched his professional career in photography.
With no training or formal experience but a lot of courage, confidence, and passion, Jacob moved to Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem to work as a freelance photographer. He received a certificate from the Israeli Government Press Office, enabling him to take part in State events in the Knesset where he photographed people including Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Marc Chagall, Teddy Kollek and many others.
In 1972, with courage and a bit of chutzpa, Jacob left Israel for Canada. He arrived in Toronto with $350 in his pocket, a portfolio, a small suitcase, while barely knowing a word of English. There, he worked as a freelance photographer, winning first prize in a competition on the subject of Israel. However, when the Yom Kippur war broke out, Jacob used his $500 prize money to buy a plane ticket to return to Israel where he carried out assignments given to him by the Israeli Army’s Press Division.
After a few months he returned to Toronto, where he began to sell original works of art and prints. This income allowed him to finance the opening of his first art gallery. By the mid-1970’s Jacob had moved to New York and opened a second gallery in Soho, New York, where he worked until 2008. For the next twenty years, while running the two galleries, Jacob put his photography on hold. Then, due to a chance encounter, Jacob picked up his camera again resumed photography.
Working as a photographer and dealing others’ works is first and foremost a way of life for him, as he was drawn to this business out of his love and passion for art and promoting artists. Jacob is always striving for a balance between the commercial and creative sides of the business, and sees great value in both.
A self-taught photojournalist, Jacob Elbaz photographs and documents his surroundings – whether it be on the streets of New York or Jerusalem. His camera lens is a bridge through which he communicates with the world, creating connections with people who later become close friends and loyal patrons. His work often showcases different historical and social moments with Jacob’s unique perspective, which relies on his intuition for capturing candid moments.
The iconic images of Jacob Elbaz reveal his keen eye for provocative juxtapositions and social interactions, his unfailing instinct for compelling compositions that draw the viewer in, and his mastery of the technical elements of photography that articulate his creative vision with maximum impact.
Now Jacob Elbaz brings his award-winning talents, passion, and financial resources to the Hudson Visual Arts Center, a multi-faceted venue for art exhibitions, creative interaction among artists and education covering the full range of visual arts. Located in Hudson, NY, the Center is a 4,000 square foot space with 15-foot ceilings.
In 2010 Jacob returned to Kibbutz Sde Nehemia to fulfill his dream of creating an Art Center in the Galilee. He and his team started working to create an environment where young artists, experienced artists, and other professionals would be able to work together and be offered marketing and sales opportunities in Israel, North America and Europe. To support the Art Center, Jacob formed two not-for-profit organizations, one in the U. S. and one in Israel.
Today, Jacob is running both galleries in SoHo and Hudson, NY, where he has most recently relocated to a 4,000 sqft space. This new location will serve as a gallery, a space for artists to work and exhibit, and a space where members of the community can gather for master classes in the fine/visual arts. Jacob is also working on the publication of several books, one of which focuses on his photography on and following September 11 in NYC for the upcoming 20-year anniversary. Additionally, he continues to develop his nonprofit, evolving the organization in a way that best serves both the local communities in the U.S. and young artists in the Middle East. He is always welcoming interested individuals to participate in all of these endeavors.
Much of Jacob’s work can be found on his website, www.jacobelbaz.com. His galleries are located in SoHo at 77 Mercer St., New York, and at 160 Fairview Ave., Ste. 88, in Hudson, NY. You can reach Jacob with any inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.