The Israel Defense Forces owns 1.8 million guns, according to a recent international survey of small-arms ownership. Both men and women are conscripted into the army at the age of 18 – and it is not unusual to see these youths wandering around with weapons, either in their hands while on patrol or strapped to their backs when on the beach.
Guns are, as Jasper White says, "part of that youth culture", which he decided to document while in Tel Aviv in April. The impetus behind his series "Young Guns" came from a conversation he had with an Israeli friend, who had been telling him about her experiences as a conscript in the army and "always having to carry this bloody gun everywhere. It became a part of her life."
Through a local assistant who was just leaving the army, White gained access to the bedrooms of recruits aged 18 to 22. Some – though clearly not all – are either the rooms of very clean teenagers or have been made up for the visit of the 40-year-old photographer.
The participants' guns were placed by White in the centre of each scene, but as he explains, "It's not meant to be a literal representation – nor is it meant to be sensationalist. It's more about the idea." The idea being the discrepancy between youthful innocence and the "everyday" quality of the weaponry.
This everyday reality became clear to the Londoner as he came to understand that rather than keeping their rifles behind two locked doors – as Israel's defence ministry dictates – many of the youngsters "just sling them on their bed then go out for the night". With evidence such as the bedroom pictured above, it doesn't seem that surprising.
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