Rafael Ben-Ari’ (Hebrew: רפאל בן-ארי b. 1971) is an Israeli-born international independent content creator master photographer and filmmaker, specializing in photojournalism and travel photography. He is known for his war and combat zone photography and on location travel photography around the world. In 2019 he was named one of the top 10 Best Stock Photographers in the world by Pouted Magazine.
His work has appeared in magazines, books, newspapers and online around the world. Rafael Ben-Ari has exhibited his photography work in Israel, Australia, New Zealand, France, Mexico and Italy.
Rafael Ben-Ari’s mission statement is: “To photograph the mysteries of life through the land, up to the sky and into the depths of the oceans in a driven passion to find the equation between reality and imagination”. His philosophy is that: “There is no place that is too far…” and that “The biggest fear is fear itself…”
Rafael was introspective as a child and at school his teachers had great difficulty in finding his forte, although he gave full evidence of acute visual awareness. Since the age of four he expressed himself and described the surrounding world by drawing with a pencil, pen, charcoal, paints, spray or a brush over any kind of surface. Rafael was always passionate to know about all kinds of visual and plastic arts such as architecture, painting, sculpture, film-making and photography.
His first photographs were taken in the fall of 1988 when he was plagued with what was thought to be a brain tumour. Weeks later the doctors informed him that there was nothing more they could do and that he has only one month to live. In his sorrow Rafael asked his father if he could borrow his old Konica Vintage 35mm Camera and started to document the first day of the rest of his life. Against all odds, Rafael’s life was saved by a complicated operation and he was reborn eventually after seven months of isolation from the rest of the world – watching other patients come and go from the hospital on their feet or in plastic bags. This experience led Rafael to express himself by using the camera as a tool to grab the passing moments in life he almost lost. With strong determination he managed to recover, returned to high school, learned everything he missed and graduated with the rest of his class. He then bought his first professional camera gear, traveled to East Africa and climbed on Mount Kenya to find out that his life had only just begun.
Rafael’s professional career started at the time Saddam Hussein and his armed forces invaded to Kuwait in 1990 when he joined and served in the Israeli Air Force as a Military Photographer for three years.
When he finished his army service he started an extensive travel around the world while gaining knowledge and higher education in photography, history, architecture, history of arts, geography, philosophy, theology, diving and sailing. He has studied photojournalism in the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP) in New York USA and later he studied for Bachelor of Fine Arts ( B.F.A degree), majoring in Fine Arts photography in Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem, Israel.
Over the years he has crossed six continents, lived in some of the world’s major cities and has immersed himself in all manners of work and cultures. His ability to speak except Hebrew fluent English, basic Arabic and Spanish has opened doors for him in many countries. This experience, he believes helped him to learn to feel empathy towards his subjects and to convey to the public viewers the reality of life through his eyes.
Rafael’s over 25 years of professional photography experience makes him comfortable working with PRO digital DSLR cameras, HD and 4K Camcorders and also analogue 35mm, panoramic and underwater cameras use of both available light and artificial light to capture his images depending on the weather condition and local light condition.
His passion for photography and his experience in freelancing in almost all fields of photography from Aerial photography to Underwater photography, from News and War Photojournalism photography to Commercial photography and from Landscape photography to Wildlife photography, this led Rafael today to become an independent Adventure Travel Photographer and Documentary Photojournalist who chooses his topics and assignments independently and approaches them in his own unique way. Among his other interests, Rafael teaching individuals and small group photography on photo tours and gives public lecturing in his spare time.
Rafael’s photography work is well recognized and his images appears in a large number of publications, magazines and websites on a daily basis all over the world. Among them: Time Magazine, The National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, The New York Times, NBC News, Newsweek, The Guardian ,The Telegraph, Rough Guides, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides & Travel Books, Encyclopedia Britannica.
Today, Rafael constantly works on new photo assignments around the world and he is a full time freelance photographer and cameraman based in Auckland CBD, New Zealand for clients such as Reuters international and Getty Images.
Rafael recent photo and filming assignments focused on Oceania region culture, landscape, people, nature and wildlife in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
2016 – 3rd place – Judges Vote in Nikon Photo Day
2016 – Pond5 Photographer Ambassador
2014 – 1st place Crowd vote and 2nd place Expert’s choice in “Crowds” photo contest by Nikon N-Photo magazine and Photocrowd
2007 – Photo published in Doubletruck Magazine “World’s Best News Pictures”
2006 – Excellent Artist in Photography from the Israeli Government
2005 – Excellent Artist in Photography from the Israeli Government
2011 – “Unexpected Israel” – Milan, Italy
2011 – “Cultural Friends” exhibition for customs and traditions around the world – Paseo de la Reforma (Reform Promenade) – Mexico City, Mexico
2010 – “Stories of Israel: A Photographed Journey to the Country’s Soul” – Group Exhibition in Embassies Worldwide
2010 – “Tel Aviv: The City that Emerged from the Dunes” – Mexican Senate Headquarters, Mexico City, Mexico
2010 – “Tel Aviv: The City that Emerged from the Dunes” – Fine Arts Metro, Mexico City, Mexico
2008 – “During 60 Years of Israel” – Marseille, France
2008 – “Life in Israel” – Marseille, France
2008 – “Jerusalem – the Heart of Israel” – Marseille, France
2003 – “Untitled” – Paihia, New Zealand
2003 – “The Decisive Moment” – Kerikeri, New Zealand
2002 – “A Thin Line Trade” – Melbourne, Australia
2003 – Rescue diving and underwater photography from Padi Bay of Islands NZ
1999 – Bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A) in Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design – Jerusalem Israel
1995 – Professional photography in New York Institute of Photography – New York USA
Two Exhibitions in Mexico City
Protocolo, Mexico – Foreign Affairs and Lifestyle 2010
“The artwork by Rafael Ben Ari has an extensive international recognition. His photographs have appeared in many publications, magazines and websites, both in Israel and other countries. His passion and experience as a photographer, have been proposed to create a new independent picture called Chameleon’s Eye.
From Tel Aviv, March 8: The city that emerged from the dunes can be seen from the windows of the Bellas Artes Metro station, where users who travel daily by connecting this station between lines 2 and 8 can appreciate and learn more about the life of Israel, and in particular the daily life of Tel Aviv-Yafo.
As Ambassador Livne ended his words: “This city is one of the most important centers of artistic work in Israel. Tel Aviv means the boot into the future. “
Three Exhibitions in Marseille, France
Crif Marseille-Provence, 04 May 2008
“Rafael Ben Ari is a young Israeli photographer who has chosen for his country. Today his talent is recognized around the world which enables it to travel exhibitions that invite reflection and the discovery of a country. Rafael comes to Marseilles submit 40 photos at Parc Borely, alongside a presentation of his work at the Culture here. Exhibition on the terrace of the Chateau Borely.”
Exposition Photo de Rafael Ben-Ari
La Marseillaise, 08 Mai 2008
“Since his life was saved, Israeli Photographer Rafael Ben-Ari, never stopped shooting photos and he always tried to open a new window to the world of places and cultures that crossed his way. The superb exhibition, “Jerusalem- the heart of Israel” that is exhibiting at the moment in EspaceCulture Center, Marseille France: Expresses the center of peace and conflict, the symbol of the three main religions in the world. Rafael’s photos show the daily life of Jerusalem city and the relationship between the Muslims, Christians and Jews in the holy city after 40 years of reunion.” (translated from French)
World’s Best News Pictures
DOUBLETruck Magazine, USA, 19 September 2007
Letter written by Scott Mckiernan – Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
“I am writing to personally congratulate you on your outstanding photography. Your image of a practice mass casualty scenario in Sderot (see pages 16-17 was selected from among hundreds of other entries to showcase in DOUBLEtruck Magazine (Volume IV, Issue Eight). Congratulations once again for making the cut!”
Scoop Magazine, Israel
Article by Sarit Livne, 03 August 2006
“When he was 17 the Israeli born photographer Rafael Ben Ari experienced a severe brain infection and the doctors told him that he has one month left to live. In an instant decision he took his father’s old camera (Konika) and started to document the first day of the rest of his life… Rafael’s life was saved eventually and since then he is using every spare moment to live the life he had been given back and document them through his eyes. Now he is one of the most busiest photographers in Israel, and every photograph of his is worth more then a thousand words.”
Russell Lights (Front Page)
Article by Birgitta Joy Jonsdottir, 25 September 2003
“Its like stepping into another world. The photos filled with history and details, still flash in my mind. His motives and ambience are unique, its obvious that he has a sense for details the rest of us tend to miss. You can find photos there to suit your whole emotional scale. Travel through his chameleon eyes into the world of the bizarre, the beautiful and the majestic.”
Visions Through the Lens
The Northern Advocate, NZ, Article by Bill MacLaren, 2 September 2003
“Recommended Viewing.” “…features the brilliant work of Israeli photographer Rafael Ben-Ari. It highlights, through the extraordinary and gifted eyes of a master pictorial storyteller, the many faces and fortunes of mankind.” The Northern News – Kerikeri, NZ (Arts on a Wednesday by Larry Jenkins)
Oct 15, 2003 (page 7) – (‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’ exhibit images)
” Neither needs any explanation, but they struck me as extremely evocative and whimsical glimpses of rural Northland life at either end of the day.”
“Untitled” exhibition by 16 famous artists
Williams House, Paihia, 8 Oct 2003
“Morrow’s and Frank Habicht’s accomplished, stark black and white pictures were balanced by the witty colour, “Sunset” & “Sunrise” of Rafael Ben-Ari.”
Williams House Gallery, Paihia, 1 Oct 2003
“Familiar names on the list – Frank Habicht and Rafael Ben-Ari. so the sheer variety will make it worth the trip.”
The Decisive Moment Exhibition
Kerikeri, 30 July 2003
“…Blitz London ’01’ – a thought provoking & magic image.”
The Bay Chronicle
Bay of Islands, NZ, 25 July 2003 (page 5) –
“Israeli photographer Rafael Ben-Ari…shows his delight at the opening of his exhibition “The Decisive Moment”…exhibition includes photographs taken by him around the world.”
Decisive Moment Exhibition (page 3)
Kerikeri, NZ, 11 July 2003
“His photographs are particularly striking and poignant.”
Article by Kerry Molloy, 23 May, 2002
“International photographer sets up his tripod in Keri.”
Article by Kerry Molloy, 16 May, 2003 (Cover)
“Kerikeri Inlet photographed by Rafael Ben-Ari for a new Kerikeri Visitor Guide”
Melbourne, Australia, 19 Sep 2002
“Time for Change at Chameleon.”
“Forget Naomi and Claudia – everyone can be a model, according to cousins Raphael Ben-Dor and Rafael Ben-Ari”
Melbourne, Australia, 23 August 2002
Article by Danny Gocs, Vol 68, No 49,
“Cover photograph & “Portraits From the Streets” [Arts]
“Walk down Church St Richmond, on a Sunday afternoon and you may end up being featured in a photo exhibition by Israeli photographer Rafael Ben-Ari and his cousin Raphael Ben-Dor.”