International photographers looks for other angles in Israel
French photographer Frederic Brenner, who spent 25 years documenting Jewish life around the world for his book “Diaspora,” initiated the project. According to Isabel Kershner’s story in the New York Times, Brenner raised $3.5 million from a consortium of more than 60 almost exclusively Jewish donors and foundations in the United States and Europe.
Brenner said that the impetus was the Second Intifada when he was “very sad to see how Israel was being portrayed. We were in a binary paradigm — for and against, victim and perpetrator. There was such a lack of complexity in describing this place.”
Brenner was able to invite 11 acclaimed photographers, including Jeff Wall from Canada and Thomas Struth from Germany, and the end result is unknown – there’s no mandate to make Israel look ‘good,’ according to Brenner. We’ll know in about two years, when a traveling exhibition exhibition opens with a catalog of all the artists’ work and a digital offering.
For some it was their first time in Israel. Most came with a keen awareness, if only from newspaper headlines, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several said they found being here difficult.
Josef Koudelka, a Czech photographer who recorded the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968, has been photographing the high concrete wall that makes up the Jerusalem section of Israel’s West Bank barrier. Though he is not a political person, he said, “it is not easy for me in this country. I don’t see things that make me very cheerful.”
He said he was focusing on “the crime against the landscape, in the most holy landscape for humanity.”
An American photographer, Rosalind Solomon, the oldest of the group at 81, began shooting portraits in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the northern West Bank. She was a few minutes away when Juliano Mer Khamis, a famed Israeli-Palestinian actor and theater director, was gunned down by a masked Palestinian in the city’s refugee camp in April.
“I just feel the turbulence,” she said. “I think on both sides people are very affected by the climate they are living in.”
The group – which is also visiting places like the Negev and the Weizmann Institute of Science, also includes Wendy Ewald, an American conceptual artist and educator; Martin Kollar from Slovakia; Jungjin Lee from South Korea; Stephen Shore from New York; and Nick Waplington, a Briton who has been focusing on settlers. They’ve also been hearing lectures – and giving their own – sessions at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
It will be interesting to see what they decide to focus on – falling back to the clichés of the conflict – or exposing the other Israel that’s waiting to be discovered.