“Looking Towards Palestine”
A powerful photographic exhibition took place recently at La Boca del Lobo, a cultural center in the Lavapies neighborhood of Madrid. Titled Mirando a Palestina: Proyecciones Fotograficas (Looking towards Palestine: Photographic Projections), the one-week exhibit brought together a diverse group of photographers from Spain, Finland, U.S., Canada, and last but not least, Palestine.
The exhibition provided a unique opportunity. Instead of the usual pictures of political leaders giving speeches and shaking hands, viewers had the chance to see Palestine in all its human fullness, from the most horrific scenes (bleeding bodies on hospital tables and floors, dead bodies being slid into morgue drawers, ordinary people overcome with grief and anger) to the most subtle and quotidian (a young boy sitting on a sofa holding a doll, old men playing cards in a room almost devoid of furnishings).
The work included in "Looking Towards Palestine" represented an impressive diversity of styles and subject matter. The show was full of images of funerals, children's games, Israeli tanks and bulldozers, living rooms, violent confrontations -- in short, the stuff of daily life under occupation and in the Diaspora.
Most striking, however, are the images produced by Rula Halawani, a Birzeit University professor and freelance photographer. In a series of photos titled "Negative Incursion," Halawani uses negative images to document the 2002 Israeli invasion. The result is ghostly and nightmarish. Halawani's decision to employ negative black-and-white images leaves the viewer wondering whether the images were shot in 2002 or 1982 or 1948. Which is precisely the point: the nightmare continues.
“The warm light still there," is another series that showcases Halawani's native Jerusalem at night, and the contrast with "Negative Incursion" couldn't be more marked. As the titled indicates, Jerusalem is a place of warmth for Halawani, who takes advantages of the few light bulbs present to cast a loving glow on the deserted streets of the Old City.
Another remarkable work of Halawani is “The Intimacy Series," in which Halawani's camera captures a series of what would otherwise be innocuous daily interactions: the exchange of identity cards between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians at Qalandia checkpoint.