Dikla Laor's photographs of the women of the Bible
The events recorded in scripture—the miracles, battles, and visions—can sometimes lead a reader to think that the characters in the Bible lived spectacularly epic lives. It can be easy to forget that most of the Biblical characters were normal people who encountered the supernatural along the course of their everyday existence. Dikla Laor’s photographs help rectify that imbalance; she portrays the Biblical characters in their native setting, and often in moments not connected to the main theme of the scriptural narrative.
Since 2013, Dikla Laor has been working on a series of photographs of the women mentioned in the Bible. Her images depict the women of Scripture in the landscape of the Golan Heights area where Laor lives, and through meticulously crafted costumes and props, she brings to life the personalities and settings of these women.
Laor recreates some very striking imagery in some of her scenes. Her angel (in the second picture) is terrifying, as an angel should be, yet it is also comforting—notice the serenity on the face of Samson’s mother. The facial expressions which Laor captures contribute greatly to the effect of her photographs, revealing troves of information about the mental state and thought processes of her characters.
Some of Laor’s photographs show scenes of intense emotion and even violence, but the majority depict the Biblical women in a more subdued, everyday milieu; many of her models are simply talking with each other, or even just standing and staring into the surrounding landscape.
What strikes me most about these photographs is the ordinariness of the scenes, and the women therein. The Biblical account of the story of Ruth is one of the most beloved tales in the Bible; in it, we get a powerful portrayal of the deep friendship and love that two people can share. Yet if we were walking past while Ruth was having her famous argument with Naomi, we would probably not have noticed anything noteworthy about the scene; “those three women are talking together,” we would have thought, and walked on. Laor’s photo restores some of the mundanity of the events of the Bible, putting them in their original context and reminding us that the Bible is full of ordinary events happening to ordinary people.
But the very ordinariness of these scenes and people instils the events of the Bible with an even greater significance. The above photo might look like an average old lady watching a child play, but with the Biblical story providing the necessary background, the relationship between these people becomes very important. As Sarah looks at her son Isaac in the above photo, we are reminded of what she was thinking. Laor’s image subtly directs us to look deeper than the surface appearances, and to think about the significance of this child for this woman in the context of the Biblical narrative, and God’s promise to provide an heir for Abraham and Sarah in their old age.
But think beyond the Sarahs and Ruths of the Bible. There are dozens of women who play extremely small parts in the story; some, even, who are known to us only as a name in a genealogy or a census record. Are their lives meaningful, too? Yes. As Dikla Laor says,
There are no “unnecessary” words in the Bible—meaning every single name bears strong significance.
If this is indeed true, every woman in the Bible is in the story for a reason, even if they themselves were not aware of that reason. To be reminded of their existence through Laor’s photographs is to be reminded of their place in the Word of God—a place we might not understand either. But does anyone really understand their own place in the vast narrative of history?
As I think of these near-anonymous women of the Bible, I’m reminded that they all had significance to someone. They all were someone’s daughter; certainly, most of them had friends, relatives, and neighbors whose lives intertwined with theirs. Even the most seemingly insignificant and un-noteworthy character in the Bible was important as a person—and important enough for God to put her name in His Book.