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The Photographers (2004-2007), 2007

In March 2002, following a terrorist attack on the popular Café Moment which took the lives of 11 civilians and injured many more, I left my studio armed with a Leica M2, hardly an up-to-date camera, in order to document the new reality of fences and checkpoints rising around the city. The urge to better understand the conflict, led me to a ‘border land’, a land where the points of friction between Palestinians, Israeli settlers and soldiers were mainly reported by the media. 

Between 2003 and 2007,  after acquiring more appropriate cameras, I became a freelance news photographer. The field became both my studio and a place of work. Oddly enough, although I was more directly confronted with the conflict, photographing reduced my fear and powerlessness, helping me transcending the existential chaos prompted by almost daily terror attacks on Israeli civilians. Following the construction of the Separation Wall, terror attacks in the city decreased dramatically but I became aware that it entailed harsh difficulties for the civilian Palestinian population crossing the checkpoints on their daily working trips into the city.

At first, in order to approach the checkpoints, I went with the women from ‘Machsom Watch’. Amongst these subversive women observers that describe themselves as a group of ‘civilians challenging the military on its own ground’, I found voluntaries of all age. During these gloomy days of terror and military retaliation these extraordinary women undeniably inspired me.

Later on, I joined Rina Castelnuevo, a veteran photographer for the New York Times, learning enormously from her vast knowhow. I covered the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2005 and many other media events related to the conflict. Working as a freelance news photographer allowed me an increasing amount of freedom when crossing borders back and forth into Palestinian Territories. In 2006, following the Second Lebanon War, I met the Middle East correspondent for the Swiss Newspaper Tages Anzeiger,  joining her on some interesting assignments

During these years my work as a news photographer definitely influenced my installations and performances from the Border Land series and later from Wounded Land. I also exhibited a few photographic series, yet the bulk of my photos have not been yet made public. 

The Photographers‘ series was shot mostly during the first years, probably as a result of my curiosity as a beginner  watching them act. Usually informed in advance of a coming or sudden event, photographers contacted each another, providing information if lacking. In general, they acted as a team of colleagues, bound by masculine friendship, women being an accepted minority. Without any doubt, friendship or polite collegiality is important when covering events that can occasionally turn violent. In time I learned by watching them, where to stand and how to be careful in case of flare-put. I came to notice certain details like the disturbing ‘voyeurism’, particularly during funerals, or how small events could take disproportionate magnitude, especially when it involved soldiers. I realized how everyone seemed to know the rules of the game in advance, demonstrators, police, army and media, yet there was always a possibility that a small event would trigger a conflagration. Often, during important media events, such as the Disengagement, great numbers of journalists would pore in from all over the world, eager to get the ultimate picture that would be wired fast. Israel granted them close to the Gaza Strip, a place to gather and quickly move pictures and texts. Having witnessed numerous other conflicts, these foreign photographers acted in a professional way denuded of passion or overwhelming interest, on their own agendas: get the ultimate shot that suited the story. During the Disengagement, the areas were spread out and journalists had plenty of locations to cover without bumping into each another, but on other occasions they generally seemed to gather around the chosen ‘prey’. It was after noticing this, that I became interested in collapsing subject/object within the same frame. I realized that showing both the object of the subject’s interest enlarged the vision of what was actually taking place. Except for later assignments for the Swiss newspaper, I was after no ‘story’ apart from trying to make sense of the conflict and witnessing a reality around me, this granted me the liberty of looking, of making mistakes and wrong choices. At the time I did not realize the privilege I had, I was trying to find out what my story should be about and thought my pictures lacked professionalism. Only now, more than a decade later, I realise how much I learned along the way about photography, about medias and photographers, about ‘ways of seeing’ and moreover about the repetitiveness of this conflict… 

September 2014





Ariane Littman