Every morning, while his classmates are fast asleep, 15-year-old Erez Amir takes his camera and snaps photos of the surrounding area of his hometown of Jerusalem.
Amir's photos of wildlife, landscapes and flora made him one of the youngest nature photographers in the country to have his own show presented in a gallery.
Amir has always loved photography, but his parents' passion for traveling turned him into a professional. Instead of going abroad for his Bar-Mitzvah, he asked his parents to visit more and more expeditions in various areas of Israel so he could expand his photo gallery..
"I fell in love with nature and landscapes at a young age," he recalls. "I got my first camera at age 11 and became a photography enthusiast: I went outside our home every day, and took amazing pictures of animals and nature that most people don't know exist under their noses."
Several months ago, after he collected thousands of unique photos, Amir decided to try and make his exhibition dream come true.
Despite his young age, he started a crowd funding campaign to raise NIS 8,000 for the exhibition's promotion. His ultimate goal was to expose the public to the natural treasures that can be found right outside their homes.
The dream came true—the exhibition is now showing in the Henry Crown Hall at the Jerusalem Theater. Photos include vistas, flora and fauna, all taken at Mount Herzl, Gazelle Valley, Wadi Zimra, Wadi Kos and other sites around Jerusalem.
"Many think Jerusalem is just old buildings and religious sites," Amir says. "In my photos, I show that there are also beautiful natural sites."
The exhibition's curator said it is indeed unusual to see a teenager who invests so much time and resources in creating an exhibition. "I can't think of other such cases that are not part of an educational program led by adults," she says.
"Erez was judged by the same criteria we use to judge other artists, despite his young age, since we are a publicly-funded organization," she adds. "He's a good photographer but more than that, you can see this is his passion and that Jerusalem's urban nature means a lot to him."
"When you look at his photos, you can see he has managed to capture sights most of us miss, and some of his photographs show remarkable observation and an ability to sit still—the qualities of a nature photographer," the curator continues.
Amir's principle also speaks of his student's determination, saying Amir arrives in school every morning after a walk in nature. Unsurprisingly, he attests Erez is a creative student in other fields as well.
"We're proud of him, and hope he'll inspire other students," the principal says.