For This Place, Ewald collaborated with fourteen communities to create a collective portrait of life in Israel and the West Bank through participatory photography. These pictures capture the unique character of each community, and allow us to see life in Israel and the West Bank through each photographer's eyes.
Koudelka's photographs document the separation barrier dividing Israel from the West Bank. His somber, striking images present a panoramic portrait of the wall in every aspect, including checkpoints, agricultural gates through which Palestinian farmers must pass to access their land, razor wire, and graffiti.
Brenner's project is a pungent and compassionate representation of life in contemporary Israel. His photographs observe the tyranny of roles in this conflicted society and its cost in human terms, in estrangement from intimacy and shared humanity. Every picture is formally definite, and each true to the human condition and the legacy of the region's turbulent history.
Waplington photographed more than two hundred Jewish settlements in the hills of the West Bank, combining family portraits with images of the natural and built environment. He was particularly fascinated with the problems and contradictions of the settler movement—especially among immigrant families that had given up comfortable lives to dwell in the contested region.
Lee's photographs of the desert landscape, with their stark, melancholy beauty, reflect the conflict and tensions she felt while working in Israel and the West Bank. Many focus on solitary objects in nature: a tree, a truck, or a bale of barbed wire. Others revel in unexpected patterns and textures: the grid of a greenhouse's irrigation system or the radiating veins of pale dirt upon a dark and rocky ground.
Kollar's pictures explore how Israelis prepare for an uncertain tomorrow—through war games, medical experiments, and technological innovation. While we may recognize familiar elements in his work, there is often something in them that appears off or “crooked,” to use Kollar's word, confounding our understanding of what we see. Like fragments from a lost film, they hover between reality and fiction, mystery and paranoia, the ordinary and the absurd.
Solomon's photographs testify to the diversity of the people she met while traveling through Israel and the West Bank via commuter bus. Her emotionally intense photographic approach creates a vital and complex collective portrait of the region.
Shore's approach to photographing Israel and the West Bank, a region he called “impossible to comprehend,” was to employ a varied range of techniques to capture its troubled, complex beauty. Shore's photographs are highly observant and poetic in execution, inviting us to note the ways in which history is enduringly present and woven into the very fiber of the region.
During his first visit to Israel in October 2010, Wall came upon a group of Bedouin olive pickers sleeping on a farm near a large prison in the Negev Desert, where this traditionally nomadic Arab people has lived for centuries. Wall returned for the next harvest in October 2011 to recreate the scene, but with one change: he photographed the olive pickers at dawn rather than sunset.
For This Place Thomas Struth concentrated on subjects that had long defined his photographic practice—portraits, landscape, architecture, and technology—yet he also took on the challenge of making pictures in this specific region of conflict. Without telling a literal story of places and people, Struth’s subtle photographs reveal how personal feelings of anger, love, fear, faith, and doubt are shaped by public history.
The aerial landscapes exhibited by Fazal Sheikh form part of the series Desert Bloom, which explores the traumatic legacy of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Flying above the Negev Desert, Sheikh photographed sites of existing and former villages of the Bedouin, a traditionally nomadic people who have lived there for more than five hundred years.
Gilles Peress documents the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on everyday human lives in his photographs of Israel and the West Bank. As in his past work from conflict zones in Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and Bosnia, he uses photography as a means of understanding reality, beyond the media’s calculated presentation of social and political situations.
February 12–June 5, 2016
This Place explores the complexity of Israel and the West Bank, as place and metaphor, through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers.
Featuring more than 600 photographs by Frédéric Brenner, Wendy Ewald, Martin Kollar, Josef Koudelka, Jungjin Lee, Gilles Peress, Fazal Sheikh, Stephen Shore, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, and Nick Waplington, This Place offers not a single, monolithic vision, but rather an intricate and fragmented portrait, alive to all the rifts and paradoxes of this important and much contested place.
Between 2009 and 2012, the twelve artists spent extended periods in Israel and the West Bank, free to approach their subjects as they chose. They travelled throughout the region and engaged with a remarkable variety of individuals and communities. While the exhibition presents twelve distinct perspectives, several key themes emerged, such as family, identity, home, and landscape and the environment. At the same time, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is impossible to ignore and leaves its mark on many of the images, often in ways that are not immediately apparent.
The exhibition challenges viewers to go beyond the polarizing narratives and familiar images of the region found in mainstream media. The result is a deeply humanistic and nuanced examination that reminds us of the place of art, not as an illustration of conflict, but as a platform for raising questions and engaging viewers in a conversation.
An illustrated catalogue, published by MACK, accompanies the exhibition.
This Place is organized by Chronicle of a People Foundation, Inc., New York, and the tour is managed by Curatorial Assistance, Pasadena, California. The exhibition was curated by Charlotte Cotton. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Cora Michael, Associate Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum. For more information, visit the This Place project website.
Support for the Brooklyn Museum presentation is provided by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the Joseph S and Diane H Steinberg Charitable Trust, the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Michèle Gerber Klein, The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Jerome and Ellen Stern, and the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund.