© Linda Forsell, A Palestinian teenage boy uses a slingshot to cast stones at Israeli soldiers, from the project Life’s a Blast, Ni’lin, 2008
Professor Noam Chomsky on his recent trip to the Gaza Strip, where he publicly called on Israel to put an end to the blockade on the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave. “[Gaza] is a lesson for people from the West,” Chomsky says. “If they can struggle on under really harsh and brutal conditions, it tells us we ought to be doing a lot more.”. Video here
It’s fair to speculate that all photography surfacing from Israel and Palestine is about land. Knowing what we do about land disputes, settlements and segregation in the region, it’s difficult not to ascribe images a political position favoring the land claims of either the Israelis or Palestinians. This is understandable in a climate of contemporary opinion that has roundly rejected the idea of photography and photographer as objective agents.
Linda Forsell’s photographs are not landscape photographs in the traditional sense. However, the beguiling vignettes within the pages of this book do return us to issues of land, and to the discomfiting realisation that no one in Israel or Palestine has a grounded or reliable relationship to the land.
In considering the surety of land-claims – claims backed with violence – in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, it may seem absurd to describe peoples’ connections to land as without root. Perhaps, the word ‘ambiguous’ more faithfully describes the disconnect. Between the certainty of established political positions and the uncertainty of physical existence in the region there exists a vast gulf of ambiguity.
Life’s A Blast is a challenge to convention and photographic authority, a sustained and deliberate visual wobble.
Within a photograph of an older man teetering atop a wall, the wobble is literal. In the photographs of children wielding weapons and playing among destroyed buildings, the imbalance is allegorical. Men, women and children in Forsell’s work maintain relationships among themselves, but struggle to find their feet.
The tropes of photography – particularly photojournalism – in Israel and Palestine are well known; the checkpoint; the rock-slinging youth; the huddled mother; the wall; the distant settlements on a desert hillside; the coffin raised high at a funeral; and – perhaps with most appearances on international newspaper front pages – the flag. The flag is often accompanied by some billowing smoke.
These tropes persist because, within the boundaries of a news story, these scenes are the illustrative of the quote/unquote action. As consumers of images, we must keep at the forefront of our minds that living in Israel and Palestine goes on outside the boundaries of news column inches.
excerpt of Pete Brook’s essay published along Linda’s images in the book Life’s a Blast. continue reading here.
Live updates of the events in Gaza TODAY, 15th November 2012, via The Guardian
more of Linda’s work here