"I've been photographing for nearly fifty years now, mostly in Israel, and often on assignment. The initiative for a story may be mine or an editor's, but it is usually prompted by events in the news or at the center of public debate. Within this professional framework, which offers me a platform and a pretext for being involved, I range widely. I keep my internal eye open for that other, metaphorical image that transcends illustration to achieve a wholeness of its own. I strive for the elusive entity that is both evidence and evocation, public record and personal vision.
I have adopted Robert Capa's saying: "If your photographs aren't good enough, you weren't close enough." But in retrospect I add a corollary: If you're too close, you lose perspective. It is not easy to be fair with the facts and keep your own convictions out of the picture. It is almost impossible to be both a participant in events and their observer, witness, interpreter. The effort brings great frustration, and equally great reward."
Born in Berlin, Germany in 1930, Bar-Am arrived with his family in Israel (then Palestine) in 1936.
Active in the pre-state underground he worked at Haifa Port and was drafted in 1948 when the Jewish-Arab Conflict turned into an all out war.
In 1949 – co-founder of Kibbutz Malkiya in the Galilee and later member of Kibbutz Gesher-Haziv.
In the early 1950’s begins to record with borrowed cameras life on the kibbutz and joins
archeological expeditions in the Judean Desert in search for ancient Dead Sea scrolls.
After the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Bar-Am published his first book, Across Sinai and was offered to join the editorial staff of Bamachane as photographer-writer.
In 1961 was assigned to cover the Eichmann Trial.
In 1966 becomes independent, works as free-lancer and meets with Cornell Capa with whom he covers the 1967 Six Day War.
In 1968 – was invited to join Magnum and becomes the Contracted Middle East photographic correspondent for the New York Times until 1992. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Covers the scene from Suez to the Golan Heights.
1974 – Founding member of ICP, The International Center of Photography in New York and becomes active as Photographic Curator.
1977 – establishes the department of Photography at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art which he heads
1982 – covers the war in Lebanon, which results in an exhibition and book.
1985-1986 – Nieman fellow at Harvard University.
2000 – The Israel Prize for Visual Arts “for his lifelong recording of the social and cultural scene in Israel and its ongoing conflicts with a critical eye and an indelible style”.
Married to Orna, artist. Their sons are Ahuvia, a professor of classics; Barak, an artist; and
Nimrod, a doctor of philosophy.