AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village – from our staff, to our sponsors and volunteers, to our audience – to make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, we're putting the spotlight on AJFF's newly appointed Official Photographer, Duane Stork.
The Image of AJFF
AJFF represents a visual medium, film. The films we showcase help us to tell one story but as AJFF grows, we are constantly expanding on how we tell our larger story, both through our annual festival and year-round. Duane Stork has been key to helping us tell that narrative. As he says, "The AJFF is such a dynamic and exciting event. I have always felt the photography should convey the same excitement and wonder that my wife and I have felt while attending the AJFF for the past 15 years."
As much of his imagery has been central to our larger themes, the time for Duane to come on board and shape our larger visual scope seemed only right and natural.
So, who is Duane Stork?
"I started loving photography in high school; but, due to limited income opportunities in 1977, when I graduated high school, I became an electrical engineer. For 29 years I installed x-ray machines, cat scanners and nuclear cameras but never loved that job. So, 16 years ago while managing clinical engineering at Children's Health Care of Atlanta, I made the the decision to return to my first love of photography and videography and have been shooting full time ever since."
How did you get involved with AJFF?
"Chuck Robertson asked me to help him cover Opening Night some years ago when he was a sponsor for the festival. One of my number one reasons to photograph anything is, 'Is it fun?', (and yes, it is fun to photograph!!) I am so happy to be the Official Photographer of the festival and AJFF as a whole."
What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with?
"In the past the photography of the festival was mostly just a record of the goings on. I think it is important to use photography to portray the feelings you get by attending the annual festival. All of your senses are touched and the feeling of community is so strong. I love being able to communicate that sense of connection with our community."
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
"At last year's festival East Jerusalem West Jerusalem was playing at the SCAD Show. The movie was wonderful and thoughtful. David Broza was the speaker after the movie. I did not know anything about David prior to seeing the film. I heard he was a singer from Israel but that was all I knew. After the film, there was a great Q&A but then he produced a guitar and the rest of the night was magical. Broza thrilled us with stories and music so captivating and so lovely that I still remember every moment of the evening."
How as your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
"After shooting countless Bar/Bar Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings over the years, I have learned how powerful family and tradition is to our Jewish world. Just like those life events, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is a Simcha in every way. It is truly a celebration of the Jewish experience."
How do you describe AJFF to those who've never experienced it?
“When was the last time you went to a movie that was so anticipated that every soul in the theater could not wait to see it? The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is like that but for 23 days! It's full of amazing films that cover a broad range of subjects but each one has been carefully vetted and selected for its excellence. It is a fantastic gathering of people and movies. You also hear from the directors, writers, actors from these films. I literally can not wait for the next movie and the next festival."
What's your favorite AJFF film, and why?
"There are so many that I have loved but one that keeps floating to the top is Above and Beyond. It is a documentary that educated all of us in the room. It was thrilling to see how a rag tag bunch of pilots came to the rescue when all odds were against Israel. Israel was so close to being destroyed by its surrounding neighbors after declaring state hood. The interviews with the pilots were wonderful. If you have not seen it, you should see it on Netflix or Amazon. Fantastic film."
Thank you to Duane for his time this month and his years of commitment to date. We are so excited to see what Duane will accomplish with his new role. Stay tuned to see who we profile next month!
Photo credit: Daemon Bizon