Faculty in Focus: Na’ama Batya Lewin
Adjunct Faculty, Photography
A few years ago, Na’ama Batya Lewin began visiting and photographing Israel. “I was fascinated by all the street activity,” she says. “The culture and life going on at the fruit and vegetable market and other public places. I’d taken trips to Israel before when I was younger, but I’d always been hesitant to photograph strangers and street scenes. This time I was driven to keep photographing everything I saw.” Soon she realized that Corcoran students could benefit from the same experience. Since then, Lewin has been working to coordinate a two-week summer study abroad exchange for students at the Corcoran. The inaugural trip of the Deane and Paul Shatz International Student Exchange Program takes place this summer.
Among other cultural differences, Lewin, a D.C. native with lots of extended family in Israel notes that “personal space, in all forms, is much more limited in Israel. Shopkeepers, people on the street, they all feel comfortable asking personal questions right away.” While this familiarity can be off-putting to Americans, Lewin hopes that her students will embrace Israeli culture during their stay. “I am inspired by this place where people take an interest in each other. I want to show how colorful and friendly Israel can be, that life isn’t just about the conflict. The pervasive feeling on the street is that you’ve got to live now. Everyone is out enjoying life and each other’s company. I realized that I needed to show students what this is all about.”
This new Corcoran study away program will send four students with Lewin to the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem to work with four of their peers from that school for two weeks. After the Americans return to the States, Corcoran and Bezalel students will collaborate remotely for a portion of the summer before the Israelis come to stay in D.C. for two weeks. The overall focus of the project will be examiningterritories—in D.C. and Israel, in neighborhoods and cities, and in race, politics, and gender. Lewin’s own work often addresses these same themes.
Lewin has been teaching at the Corcoran for the past 10 years. As a photography adjunct professor, she has taught a number of photography and digital media classes, including a video class. She looks forward to the NEXT exhibition each year, where she can see her former students’ work on display in the Corcoran Gallery. Says Lewin, “Sometimes I’ll see the same students in two or three of my classes over the years. It’s wonderful to see their work hung up and appreciated.”
Photos by Na'ama at Machane Yehuda, the fruit and vegetable market in Jerusalem: