Ori Oren, 27

Kenmare St between Elizabeth and Mott Sts

Ori Oren

Photograph: Jay Muhlin

What are you up to? I've just come from a meeting about a project I'm working on. It's a series of photos taken around the city with this guy I found on the Bowery.

You like to pick up strangers on the street too? Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] There are a lot of interesting people below 14th Street. I find that an endless source of inspiration.

Where are you from? Israel.

Do people make assumptions about your politics? Definitely. Last summer, during the war in Lebanon, it was really weird being attacked for my nationality, not my opinions.

Did you serve in the army? Yeah, I did. I wrote propaganda; the army has its own magazine.

Whoa. Brainwashing, huh? Yes. Very George Orwell.

Did you feel guilty? I guess so. But I tried not to think about it—otherwise you go crazy. They always told us we weren't lying, we were bending the truth. It would be like, Look, the army just built a new playground for Palestinian kids in Gaza! But they don't show that behind the playground, the army demolished, like, five houses of Palestinian families. At the end of the day those kids don't have a house to go to, but at least they have a playground.

You seem very matter-of-fact about such a hot-button issue. I worked on myself really, really hard not to be stuck on those things. But looking back, I had to leave Israel for a while. That's why I'm here, to clear my mind and be out of that reality.

More from Ori

"I lived on a kibbutz until I was ten. It was a fantastic childhood, but it wasn't the real world. You grow up in a bubble. You know everyone, you share everything, and it's always about contributing."

"I shared my first Manhattan apartment with a witch on the Upper West Side. It was the most amazing experience: When I'd come home from work she knew exactly how my day was and how many people I'd met. It eventually got to a point where it just got a little too crazy and I moved out."

"This tattoo is a symbol of spiritual independence—owning your own shadow. According to Judaism and, I dunno, every other religion that I know, you always need to have someone to complete you—a life partner, someone you're going to give your life up for. I realized that I can be by myself and be really, really happy. I believe in myself as a whole, and in my character as a strong enough person that I don't need anyone else to complete me. I don't chase that anymore."

—Kate Lowenstein