Born in Morocco in 1945, Jacob Elbaz and his family emigrated to Israel in 1953.  They arrived in Israel after spending two months in Marseilles in a transit camp for immigrants.  In Israel the family lived in a shack which had no running water, electricity or toilets.  The food they received was rationed.  After two years of living in these conditions and, with the consent of his parents, Jacob and one of his brothers were taken by an Israeli welfare agency and were sent to live in the Upper Galilee on Kibbutz Sde Nehemia. 


The kibbutz educated the children and also taught them how to work the land.  Jacob, who had a learning disability spent most of his time outside of school and, in fact, never finished elementary school.  However, it was on the kibbutz that Jacob was educated in the values of Zionism.  After completing his service in the army, where he served as a paratrooper, Jacob returned to the kibbutz to work.  At the age of 20, with all the money he had earned in the previous year, he bought his first camera.

In the winter of 1963, the Jordan River flooded the area.  Jacob waded through the water, placed an old chair in a flooded field, sat a cat on the chair and took a picture.  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 supplement of the newspaper “Yediot Ahronot.”   At the time, Jacob didn’t know that people got paid for published photos.  Thus began his professional career in photography.


With a lot of courage, self-assurance and sheer chutzpa, and with no training or experience, Jacob went to Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem to work as a free-lance photographer.  He received a certificate from the Israeli Government Press Office which enabled him to take part in State events in the Knesset where he photographed people such as Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Marc Chagall, Teddy Kollek and many others.


Again, with courage and chutzpa, in 1972 Jacob left Israel, his family and friends and went to Canada.  He arrived in Toronto with $350 in his pocket, a portfolio, a small suitcase and not a word of English.  There he worked as a freelance photographer and won 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 and began to publish and sell art and art prints and opened his first gallery.  By the mid-1970s Jacob had moved to New York and opened a second gallery in SoHo where he worked until 2008.  For almost 20 years, while running the galleries, Jacob put his photography on hold.  Then, because of a chance encounter, Jacob picked up his camera again and started taking pictures.


A self-taught photojournalist, Jacob photographs and documents his surroundings, whether they be the streets of New York or Israel.  The camera lens is a bridge through which he communicates with the world, creating connections with people who later become clients and friends.  Jacob’s photographs showcase different historical and social moments, while at the same time managing to capture his unique point of view of the world.

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