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The Photographers' Gallery - Confronting Views: Nine Photographers on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

2 April - 4 May 2003

The Photographers' Gallery
8 Great Newport Street

A touring show organised by Stichting Fotografie Noorderlicht in The Netherlands

Gaza City. Gaza. 1993. Larry Towell

Antoine d’Agata (France), Didier Ben Loulou (Israel), Harry Cock (The Netherlands), Dinu Mendrea (Israel), Paolo Pellegrin (Italy), David Sauveur (France), Henrik Saxgren (Denmark), Bruno Stevens (Belgium), Larry Towell (Canada)

Since the invention of photography in the 19th century, war has been one of its most prolific themes. Photographers have brought to our homes images of monumental and horrific events happening around the world: from Robert Capa’s pictures taken of the Normandy beach landings during D-Day in 1944, to Don McCullin’s photograph of a shell-shocked U.S. marine fighting in Vietnam, photographers have risked their lives to be in the centre of the action.

In Confronting Views nine photographers offer individual perspectives on the Israeli-Palestine situation, a region with a long and complex history of bitter territorial disputes and religious divide. No single position is represented by the show: the international origins of the photographers and the variety of photographic approaches aims to give a balanced perspective on this devastating conflict. As boundaries between photographic fact and digital fiction, authors’ intent and viewers’ interpretation become increasingly blurred, photography’s role has become evermore precarious. As the conflict in the Middle-East continues to be central to International politics, Confronting Views offers a timely insight into the role that photographers can have in war zones.

In the show Henrik Saxgren and Antoine d’Agata document the scars that sustained military incursions have left on the urban environment. Saxgren, a distinguished Danish photojournalist, visited Gaza with his large format camera and made a series of photographs noticeably devoid of human presence, entitled Landscapes of War. D’Agata’s work is regularly published in both Liberation and L’Humanité, and in his work Palestine he has taken a series of panoramic shots of sites where family homes once stood, now reduced to piles of rubble. D’Agata’s other work records tensions on the streets of Jerusalem, black and white images of violent skirmishes, gesticulating crowds and edgy looking young soldiers.

In 1994, the Canadian Larry Towell was awarded the World Press Photo Award for a picture of Palestinian youths. His work shows how young boys are taking up the Palestinian cause, holding guns and throwing stones. The French photographer David Sauveur has produced two very distinct bodies of work; one that documents Israeli military actions and emotionally charged Palestinian funerals; the other more poetic images of religious life and the architectural landmarks of Jerusalem. In April 2002, Italian Paolo Pellegrin, a prize winning documentary photographer, was allowed to accompany the Israeli elite army on a night mission. The aim of these pseudo-military raids is to instill fear and tension among the civilian population. Bruno Stevens depicts the human cost of the conflict. He takes pictures of victims carried away in body bags, and in Faces he makes a series of photographic death masks recording the casualties of war. Didier Ben Loulou’s images are more symbolic and abstract with images of graffiti-covered walls and of knives placed on mutilated hands.

Some photographers elect not to show evidence of violence at all, but instead focus on how everyday life in the region continues against adversity. Dinu Mendrea, who now lives in Israel, has spent two years travelling with his camera through Jerusalem capturing images of young people in the City, to make his photo essay, Twenty in Jerusalem. He believes that depicting violence can perpetuate the situation, and so aims to show young people in their social environment. Harry Cock, from The Netherlands, states “The image of this region that sticks in our minds is one of violence and suffering. Yet ordinary life goes on….”. In his colour images we see children playing football on the streets, people working in factories, and idyllic beach scenes with youths riding horses by the sea.


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