Tag Archives: Israel And The Palestinian Territories

Marco Longari: TIME Picks 2012′s Best Photographer on the Wires

Of the millions of pictures moving through the news services, or “the wires,” in 2012, an astonishing number have already proven unforgettable. Distinctive images of daily life in Pakistan from Muhammad Muheisen, an Islamabad-based chief photographer for the Associated Press; unexpected visual stories from Jerusalem-based AP staffer Oded Balilty; uniformly strong work from Reuters’ peripatetic Goran Tomasevic (who in the past 12 months shot in Congo, Afghanistan, Syria, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt); Spanish-born Manu Brabo’s searing photos from Syria — over and over again, the wires provided signature photos from unyielding conflicts, rebellions and upheavals the world over.

But even in this celebrated company, the work of Agence-France Presse photographer Marco Longari stood markedly apart. The Italian-born Longari’s pictures from across the Middle East in 2012, from Egypt and the West Bank to Gaza and Syria, were at-once unflinching and authoritative. The unspeakable anguish in the face of a Palestinian mother holding her lifeless daughter, killed in an Israeli air strike; the passion evinced by thousands of Egyptian Christians praying for their ancient homeland; a Syrian man engaged in the most quotidian of tasks — carrying groceries — and yet hunched against a sniper’s bullet that might, at any second, take his life; the deceptively idyllic scene of a boy tending to his horse in Gaza City: in quiet moments and in terrifying, violent environments, Longari made picture after picture this year that mattered.

The Jerusalem-based chief photographer for AFP in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Longari is a graduate of the Istituto Superiore di Fotografia in Rome. In the late 1990s he covered the unrest in Kosovo before moving to Africa, where he served in Nairobi, coordinating the agency’s East African coverage. He chronicled the seemingly endless crisis in Darfur and shot the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. But it was in the Middle East in 2012 that his work transitioned from powerful to indispensable. There is, simply, no way to envision the upheaval across the region in the past year without his work. It is that central to how the world sees (and will remember) this deeply unsettling year.

The 47-year-old Longari recently told TIME that, from his perspective behind the camera, 2012 was “another year of revolutions, protests, violent acts and sheer madness. [It seems] like humanity has lost its bearings, yet again.”

He spent most of his time in Cairo, arriving early in the year, on the first anniversary of the start of the 2011 revolution. There, he was greeted by street violence and chaos.

“It was a sad scene,” he told TIME. “All the energy and the expectations of the young people with whom I shared long days and nights in Tahrir Square the year before, all was being hijacked and taken away, lost in political games. It has been difficult to find images that made sense … that were not simple repetitions of what was done a year before.”

The Egyptian presidential election in May was again, he says, a time of some optimism, with Egyptians voting in large numbers — some of them for the first time in their lives — in a country finally, tentatively experiencing what a real multiparty election can be.

“The shift in the visual landscape,” he notes, “was important, a chance to tell a positive story, whatever the outcome. Fire is still burning under the ashes,” he adds. “People on the streets are still ready and willing to settle scores.”

The West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile, is a story Longari been covering for almost six years. “Crossing the border” into that part of the world, he says, “is shifting into another gear — a different tension, but still a real tension. It’s a landscape I’ve looked at for quite a long time now. I have tools to understand it.”

Incredibly, from a year of countless telling moments, Longari recalls a specific, revelatory instance of professional camaraderie in Gaza that stays with him.

“I was waiting for casualties to arrive at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an air raid,” he told TIME. “Phone lines with Jerusalem [where his wife and two children live] went dead. It took me some time to compose myself and get back to the routine of doing what I do. But in the faces of the colleagues around me, I recognized what my face must look like every time a bomb or a rocket falls near their families. Photography is compassion — and that scene in Gaza was the most humbling lesson in compassion I’ve experienced in my career.”


TIME’s previous wire photographers of the year:

2010: Pete Muller of the Associated Press
2009: Mauricio Lima of Agence-France Press



Oded Balilty: The Art of Storytelling

Israeli photographer Oded Balilty has spent the past decade covering events in Israel and the Palestinian territories for the Associated Press. Born in Jerusalem, in 1979, Balilty was awarded the Pulitzer prize for breaking news photography in 2007 for his image of a lone Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers during clashes in the West Bank settlement of Amona. Although Balilty continues to document the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—from daily clashes to more long term work that includes a seven year project shooting the separation barrier—he has also trained his lens on the quieter and more intimate aspects of street life in and around Tel Aviv, where he is based.

“This region is so saturated by pictures from the conflict so you always look for different stories and events,” says Balilty, who has begun several series on cultural themes within Israel. Since January, the photographer has produced essays on the ultra orthodox communities, including a series on a traditional Hasidic Jewish wedding near Tel Aviv, as well as the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, leader of the Hasidic sect Vizhnitz. and, over the last few days, the preparations for the Passover holiday, which began on Friday evening. “I try to go deeper and deeper into a story to capture things that outsiders do not know about this particular group of people,” he says.

In the same way that he’s trying to find different stories and make different pictures, Balilty says he’s trying to be a different photographer, too. “If I see photographers in one corner, I go away,” he says. “There is no need to take the same picture as five other good photographers. I’m tying to isolate myself and show the story from different angles, not only visually but mentally, to find small, quite moments within a big a crazy story.”

Balilty describes his work as something between art photography and a photojournalism—which is fitting, given the scope of his coverage of Israel. “I’m trying to tell stories with my pictures, but the aesthetics and the way I see things are very important for me,” he says. “The first and most important thing for me is to tell the story.”

And despite his foray into cultural coverage, Balilty maintains his finely-tuned process, approach and aesthetic when photographing more traditional news stories. When a gunman killed seven people in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, last month, Balilty was on hand to document the emotional return of the victim’s bodies to Jerusalem. And as with times past, Balilty handled the assignment with delicate sensibility and artistic intent, elevating his work above the general images typically seen on the wires.

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press. He is based in Tel Aviv.