“Sarah and Yonathan,” from 5683 Miles Away.(Photographs by Yael Ben-Zion, © 2010 Yael Ben-Zion and Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg)

Yael Ben-Zion came to the United States from the small town of Arad, in southern Israel, to study law. A decade later, she’s a New York City-based photographer who trains her lens on the place she left behind. In 5683 Miles Away, her recently published collection of photographs—the title is the distance from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv—Ben-Zion depicts ordinary moments in family and friends’ lives in ways that convey affection but also ambivalence toward her subjects. In one, a mother is lifting a child up into the air, a classic image of maternal affection, while the child’s camouflage onesie reminds us that warfare is never far away in Israel. Other visual clues echo that sense of constant, if peripheral, anxiety, from the emergency-notification system atop a beachside pavilion to the barbed wire that circles the trunk of an old tree. Named a best book of 2010 by Photo-Eye Magazine, 5683 Miles Away was a selected title for the 2011 German Photo Book Award. The photos from the book will be on exhibit from March 2 to May 5 at 92Y’s Weill Art Gallery in Manhattan. Ben-Zion spoke to Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about her project. [Running time: 12:14.]

5683 Miles Away
Photographs by Yael Ben-Zion