Renowned photographer David Harris died at the age of 78 on April 24, 2008, after being hit by a car while crossing the street in Jerusalem.
During his lifetime, his camera captured defining moments in the formation of the State of Israel and outstanding artifacts from its ancient past.
Born in Jerusalem in 1929, Harris studied painting as a child, but after receiving a Kodak box camera from his sister at age 13, he fell in love with photography. After a three-year stint as a military photographer for the Israeli army, he went to study at New York’s School of Modern Photography, where he graduated as top student in 1952.
Harris spent several years at the Jewish Agency’s publicity and information department, where he worked under the great photographer Shmuel Yosef Schweig and ultimately became director of photography. During his time there, his photographs served to document a very difficult time in the growth of Israel, while portraying it in an optimistic light.
In 1959 Harris began his career as a free-lance photographer for the press, archaeological excavations and commercial institutions, which he continued in Jerusalem until his death.
In 1961 Harris received a special assignment to be head photographer for the Judean Desert excavation directed by Yigal Yadin. He stood over the archaeologists’ shoulders snapping photographs in the Cave of Letters as Yadin and his colleagues uncovered artifacts and letters left behind by Bar-Kokhba and his fellow rebels during the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 A.D.). In 1965 the Israel Museum hired Harris to photograph its growing collection of art and artifacts. From 1978 to 1983 he was head of the photography department at Hadassah College in Jerusalem.
His photographs have been featured in numerous books, exhibitions and publications, including many in BAR.
Harris’s tragic death was a shock to us all, but he lives on in his many beautiful photographs of the city, country and people he loved so much.—D.D.R.