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Avidan Fundraiser

I’d like to tell you about a special person and a dear friend of mine who’s not only the inspiration behind the release of my first limited edition print but also the person who I owe my entire photography career to.  

When I started getting heavily involved with photography and decided to dedicate more effort and time to master it, I was still a teenager and like all my friends, I preferred staying up late and having a good time over getting up early in the morning. Well, that all changed when I started to invest more in landscape photography.

 In an ideal world, we’d be able to roll out of bed at 11 AM and capture the amazing scenery around us in that gorgeous, golden morning light. Apparently, an oasis like this exists half the year where they call it the “midnight sun” but I’ve yet to fly to Iceland or Alaska. I mean, back then I was pretty much confined to any hike that was within walking distance from my house due to my lack of a car or even a license to drive one. 

 As you can imagine, I had a hard time convincing my friends to join me on sunrise hikes and I really didn’t want to do a hike that started when it was still dark outside by myself. No one was crazy enough to sacrifice the most precious hours of sleep to go chasing sunrises in the forests and mountains. No one except for one friend: Avidan Gantshar.  

I’m still not sure what exactly drove him to join me almost daily since unlike me, he hardly took any pictures but maybe it was just the peace and quiet one can only find in nature, especially in the early hours of the morning. For a few months leading up to our draft to the IDF, we’d go out to the forest before sunrise almost daily and after I was done shooting, we’d have some coffee and sometimes even a bite to eat out there.

 At some point, we found a sitting area in the woods with a rug next to some old couches so we proceeded to build a small stone oven that was perfect for making fires to boil our coffee water and cook the occasional batch of pancakes.   Truly some of the best mornings of my life.  It was during these few months that I probably made the most significant progress in my photography journey and everything I’ve learned and acquired since has been on the basis of the knowledge and experience I gained during those shoots with Avidan. It was also what turned my photography from a hobby into a career. 

 In the summer of 2015, one of Avidan’s brothers celebrated a bar-mitzva, and his mom, Miri, who’d caught wind of these early-morning excursions suggested I do their bar-mitzvah photos at the Kotel (western wall). A little hesitant at first, I agreed to give it a shot (quite literally), and thankfully, his family was blown away by the results. That little taste of doing an event shoot and seeing the joy that good results can provide a client with is what sparked what would eventually turn into a full-blown photography business and is only growing and expanding every day. That and Miri’s warm recommendations help clients make the decision to go with Shmuelshots photography even today in 2023.  

Over the years I became a lot closer to Avidan and his family. Throughout my army service, I’d come to visit on weekends that we were both off, spent time with him and his family, and even shot another bar-mitzvah of their youngest son, Daniel. After we coincidentally got released from the IDF on the same day, we still made the effort to meet up occasionally whether it was for a cup of coffee, a night out in Jerusalem, or even the rare photoshoot despite our lives becoming a lot busier than our high school years.  

When covid first hit in March 2020, like everyone else we suddenly found ourselves with some time on our hands as everything came to a halt. We spent one of those first free-but-kinda-scary days driving through the backroads of the Adullam region in the Ellah Valley exploring the many fields full of springtime wildflowers. As the sun started to set, we found ourselves in an amazing field of yellow flowers and stopped to take some pictures. After taking some sunset shots, we even took a rare photo together with the camera still set up on the tripod. Little did I know that this would be one of the last times taking pictures together (2nd to last to be exact) and how meaningful that photo would end up being.


Just about a year later we were notified that Avidan had gone missing and had left all of his personal items behind including his phone. After a few nerve-wracking days of search efforts, his body was found. Avidan had been battling depression for many years and truthfully, he did a masterful job coping with it. I can’t imagine what it was like to live through everything he did but eventually, to our great sorrow, he succumbed.  I’ll spare you the details but the grief we all felt, friends and family, was unimaginable. I personally went through some of the toughest weeks in my life but slowly started managing to get back to somewhat normal again. One day, I stopped by the Gantshars and saw that they took the photo of us in the fields, cropped it so it was only him, and made a large canvas print in their living room. It’s always meaningful to see my work printed but this is by far the most meaningful print of my work. It definitely helped to see it getting put to use in such a powerful way.  "One More Light"

On Avidan’s one-year memorial (yar-tzeiht), all of his friends and family friends got together and that’s when his parents introduced us to a very meaningful tribute they’re doing in his memory. They started collecting funds to write a Torah scroll in Avidan’s memory and asked all those present for a contribution and to share it.  That got me thinking.  

 What if I can give back to Avidan using the photography that he played such a huge role in?

  What if my work can contribute to writing the Torah in his memory?  

 After discussing it with his parents, I decided to launch the sunset picture I took with him in the fields as a limited edition of 50 prints and 50% of the profits will go towards the fundraiser in his memory. It’s the least I can do to give back to a dear friend of mine who’s unfortunately no longer with us yet continues to play a huge role in my everyday life. Additionally, by using the code AVIDAN on any product on my website, you will receive 10% off and 50% of the profits will go towards the fundraiser.  

CLICK HERE to view the limited edition!             CLICK HERE to view more work

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and thank you for your amazing support!  SHMUEL

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