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‘Holding a Camera is a Superpower’

By 23rd April 2021July 2nd, 2021No Comments

A day in the life: a diary entry from British/Israeli filmmaker Karni Arieli, one half of Karni and Saul.

I’m Karni, a female photographer, Bafta nominated filmmaker, half of direction duo ‘Karni and Saul’, and a mama of two boys. I’m half Israeli and British and based in Bristol, U.K.

Life as a female, mother, and artist/filmmaker is no easy task; even before 2020…

YOU AND ME – Micah P. Hinson. Isolation Dance film by Karni and Saul

This year we were super excited to be selected by the BFI to make a new short film, WILD SUMMON, a natural history fantasy about the life cycle of the salmon as a human woman. The salmon run with the swimmers if you will.

It’s a mixed media film and we’re so privileged and excited to be making it, but lockdown and the pandemic have made it really hard to go and shoot – on location – the backgrounds and rivers we desperately need. Having kids at home and home schooling in a full-blown pandemic is not the best way to focus on a new project. But on the positive side, to make up for lack of hours and focus, we got intensity and time to think, plan, and feel.

That could be a plus for all filmmakers. We’ll see… we are finally going on a shoot next month, I hope. And then on an art residency in Iceland in the summer, where we plan to film some more.

It’s a journey, a ride for sure. More than ever, I feel us and the natural world are interconnected in deep, meaningful ways. So the film resonates even stronger. Watch this space.

© Karni and Saul

When the pandemic hit I really had to take hold of myself, within the mothering and chaos, and say, “u will be the artist !! the poet!!. u won’t let fear have the last word.” Rather you will tame fear and anxiety and the unknown and use them to create, to invent, to make. To survive and inspire your kids and yourself. And that’s what I’m most proud of. Managing to keep a spark of creativity, of self and filming, alive throughout as a crutch and inspiration – all while engaging the kids and doing the somewhat more mundane stuff… Most important in this time, I felt, was food, art, and moral! Oh yeah – and hugs.

And so I made three lockdown films with mine and Saul’s production company, ‘sulkybunny’, with Saul – my collaborator and partner – and with the dancers I’ve been working with lately, who are amazing and created with me in social distanced shoots or via Zoom. The three lockdown shorts,

You and me, nothing is black and white and goldfish, are touring festivals now and are available online too.

GOLDFISH – A lockdown dance film by Karni and Saul

I also documented my family intensely through lockdown, with my stills camera and video too. In-between meltdowns and from moments of weakness I emerged holding a camera… once I started telling the story I was back in control, and so I could document and take a breath and distance. Holding a camera is a superpower!

You tell your own story as a woman and mother. Off the back of that I started a platform this month called EYE MAMA PROJECT for photographer mamas looking into the home in pandemic days, to make something meaningful out of this challenging, crazy, messed up year. We are looking for photographer mamas worldwide…. It’s got an Instagram platform for now – @eyemamaproject.

One of my images – ‘home hair’ – of my kid getting a home haircut – was selected for Hold Still Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, an exhibition depicting lockdown times. It is featured in the book as well. They had the images up in bus stops and street posters….and Kate Middleton supported it all as well. That was quite exciting.

© Karni and Saul

This was also somehow a year of being introspective – of slowing down, of beauty and looking closely at the little things. I like to call it ‘Everything is illuminated’ – the bad and good. Nature was shiny, and weather, love, family, art, connections; the macro was wide. You could sit watching a shadow dance on a wall and that was something; and it brought joy. Obviously, mostly as a mum as well, I was running between the studio and my kids home schooling, the housework, and the fear too. There were many ‘off days’, bad days, but also creative, magic days of love; a real rollercoaster.

© Karni and Saul

Not a simple mix. But from that mix comes an intensity. And only the moment exists. And you make stuff with heart and eye. Like you mean it.

Art is what makes us different and separates us. We need it for our hearts and souls. To imagine and dream and connect with deeper places in our subconscious and connect to others.

I want us to remember this year. Make films and photography about it.

There are things to be learned for sure; things to change.

Oh – and give your kids cameras! Teach them to look close, and care. That’s all we can do


Karni April 2021

© Karni and Saul