Tag Archives: Middle East

Light from the Middle East

The Middle East, a sprawling and nuanced geographic mass that is home to many cultures and traditions, is often seen through the lens of politics. The Victoria & Albert Museums latest photography exhibition, however, manages to transcend this overarching narrative, producing a show that focuses on the subject of contemporary photographic practice.

As the exhibition’s curator Marta Weiss acknowledges, until now, the V & A Museums collection of photographs from the region reflected the Eurocentric term itself: Most of the photographs that we have that relate to the region were made by westerners, she says. This exhibition marks a departure from that, recognizing instead the wealth and variety of photo-making from this diverse region. This is very much an exhibition that is not about outsiders, but rather a view of the Middle East from the Middle East.”

Spanning over three decades and encompassing the work of some 30 artists and photographers, the show is divided into three parts: recording, re-framing and resisting. The categories, explains Weiss, show how photography is being employed by photographers.

The ambitiousness of the show lies not in its geographic scope, but rather in the drawing together of a diverse group of practitioners who have engaged with the medium in multiple ways.At one end of the spectrum, there is the iconic work of Magnum-photographer Abbas, documenting the unfolding revolution in Iran from 1978-1979 in his series Iran Diary, a precursor to the events attested to recently in the Arab spring. Nermine Hamman focuses on this very subject, photographing young Egyptian soldiers in Tahrir Square. Displayed in the “resistance” section of the exhibition, Hammans digitally altered images remove the soldiers from their immediate surroundings and place them instead among candy-colored mountain scapes and cherry blossoms. Entitled Upekkha (2011), the images have a postcard-like quality, drawing a parallel between the spectacle of Tahrir Square to that of a tourist attraction.

Despite the intention of the curators to shift the emphasis away from the political, Weiss acknowledges there is a lot of politics in the works. Though some of the photographers openly challenge this. Shadi Ghadirians re-staged portraits of Iranian women in the Qajar period (1786-1925) play on the tensions between tradition, modernity and gender. linkwheel . The warm grey theatrical studio photographs feature playful reminders of modernity, including an explorer bicycle and Pepsi can.

The artists on show do not limit themselves to just the Middle East however. Taysir Batnijis series documenting Israeli watchtowers in occupied Palestinian is a clear homage to German artists Bernd and Hillary Bechers iconic typologies of industrial structures in Europe. Yousef Nabil, who once worked with David LaChapelle, also looks to Europe for inspiration, photographing elderly Yemeni men in England. By hand-coloring the portraits in the style of old Egyptian film stills however, Nabil celebrates the rich tradition of Middle Eastern image-making, which, as the exhibition is testament to, is as strong and vibrant as ever.


Light from the Middle East: New Photography is on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from Nov. 13 through April 7, 2013.

Kharunya Paramaguru is based in TIME’s London office.


The End of al-Qaeda? On Patrol in Yemen by Yuri Kozyrev

Yuri Kozyrev and I have spent more hours than we care to remember on ‘embed’ with the great militaries of the world—American, Russian, NATO, Indian. But a chance to travel with a Yemeni Central Security Force (CSF) patrol in the southern Abyan province had both of us filled with nervous excitement. We were keenly aware that Yemen, a desperately poor nation at the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula, doesn’t exactly have the best-equipped army. And yet this army had just dealt al-Qaeda a major military blow in Abyan, earning the respect of all soldiers who have fought against fanatical jihadists, and those of us who have covered those battles.

We were told to bring our own vehicle because the CSF patrol was comprised of a single Toyota pickup truck, and there was no room for passengers. We met our escort on the outskirts of the port of Aden on a day the temperature topped 120 degrees and the humidity, 90%. In that heat, Yuri and I were grateful that, unlike the U.S. military, the Yemeni CSF did not require us to wear body-armor: the soldiers had none themselves. But we knew we were going into towns and villages where many al-Qaeda fighters were still at large, living among the population and just waiting for a chance to strike at the Yemeni military. The leader of our patrol, 2nd Lieutenant Tariq Bishr, warned us that we could take sniper fire at any moment.

TIME

The Sept. 17, 2012 cover of TIME International.

There was also a risk we could hit a landmine: the retreating jihadists had planted thousands of them on the roads leading to the major towns of Zinjibar and Jaar. In those towns, many homes and offices were booby-trapped, designed to kill civilians (many of whom had fled when al-Qaeda had taken over) as they came home.

But if any of this worried Yuri, he didn’t show it: I’ve known from working with him for a decade that he is unflinchingly fearless under fire. He quickly developed a rapport with the soldiers in our patrol, overcoming any concerns they may have had about having to baby-sit a pair of foreigners in a dangerous place. At the start of the patrol, Lieutenant Bishr and his men were nervous about Yuri’s camera, mainly because it attracted too much attention from bystanders. But within a couple of hours, the soldiers had become Yuri’s spotters, pointing out photo opportunities and posing for pictures themselves.

The result is this series of pictures, which offers a rare glimpse into an important battlefield in the war on terror. But it’s worth remembering these were only possible because of the valor of Lieutenant Bishr and his men.

Bobby Ghosh is an editor-at-large at TIME. Read his cover story from Yemen in this week’s issue of TIME here.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

Suffering and Resilience: The Hospitals of Aleppo

It was a typical day at one of the hospitals here in Aleppo, a typical three hours, to be even more specific. Children seemed to be everywhere, on hospital beds, in the hospital lobby and waiting with listless faces outside the clinic. Blood seemed to seep through every piece of clothing they had. Some, as young as three, composed themselves as needles pierced their skin to stitch up deep wounds.

Mohamed, 13, tried hard not to cry as he lay on a hospital bed, wincing in pain from the injury he’d sustained after a shell landed near the breadline where he had waited for hours. No one knew he’d been hurt yet and his cousin arrived only thirty minutes later to transfer him to another hospital.

More civilians flooded in, and those who were conscious had a resigned look of acceptance—this was just what happened now these days.

A teenage son, his face smeared in red, collapsed in tears over his father’s body laying on the gurney. He was hit in the head by a bullet, caught in the crossfire as their car made their way through the confusing myriad of streets, unaware of where the snipers or perhaps even the army was. He didn’t seem to register the reality and stared at his father’s bloodied body in disbelief. The doctors bound his father’s hands together and covered him in a blue sheet. They carried his body into the back seat of the car, his feet sticking oddly out of the right window. The boys in the back couldn’t hold it in any longer—as the car pulled away, they wailed.

A man’s body, uncollected by his relatives, lay on a bed in an alley behind the hospital. Another man came rushing in, his eyes wide with fear. In his arms was a bleeding young girl. The hospital staff were all busy attending other civilians and fighters. “What do I do?” he screamed. He was panting, panicking. Someone told him to go to another field hospital. Back in the surgery room, almost easy enough to miss, was an 8-year-old girl who had apparently died in an airstrike. Her body was being wrapped in a shroud and a doctor picked her up to bring her to a waiting taxi.

And minutes later, 15-year-old Fareed was rushed into the hospital. His eyes were wide open as he took deep, labored breaths—his last few before turning motionless. The doctors rushed him to surgery, attempting to resuscitate him. His mother appeared in the lobby, screaming, hyperventilating, crying and grasping at her face in disbelief.

Fareed couldn’t be saved. The little piece of shrapnel had entered his back and passed through his heart—there was nothing the doctors could do here. The hospital had so many needs—for staff, surgeons in particular, and crucial medical equipment like oxygen tanks. It is simultaneously a little house of horrors, and a little house of miracles, where death hangs heavy in the air but every saved life brings a renewed sense of purpose for the doctors.

“I feel a lot of pain inside. A lot of pain, when I see women and children injured. But I have to control myself because I have to help them,” says 28-year-old Abu Ismail, an anesthetist from Aleppo. Abu Ismail wears a black headband with white writing: There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is his prophet. “This headband gives me strength. I don’t save the lives—Allah does,” he says calmly as the horns of cars rushing to the hospital echo downstairs. Abu Ismail doesn’t flinch—his eyes remain excited and he is always smiling, even though he slept less than two hours the night before.

These are the everyday scenes in one hospital of one neighborhood in Aleppo. A microcosm of what the war looks like for the civilians of Syria, where every day the horror multiplies for even the youngest sufferers in this war. They are often the ones who cry the least as they are treated by doctors, while just a few beds over, grown men, fighters of the Free Syrian Army, scream out in pain. Daily shelling and attacks by helicopters and fighter jets seem to not break the civilian spirit. They remain resilient—they remain because they have no other place to go. Or simply, because they would rather die at home.

Nicole Tung is a freelance photographer who previously documented the uprisings in Libya and Egypt. Tung has previously filed dispatches from Syria recounting the aftermath of an airstrike in Aleppo and civilian funerals in Idlib

Land of Stories and Myths: Yaakov Israel Photographs His Homeland

The land upon which the nation of Israel sits is steeped in stories and myths. It’s ancient, holy; all three major faiths that took root here see salvation in its domes, its olive groves, its cracked earth. It’s a land where people still seek the messiah. In one Orthodox Jewish messianic tradition, He will return riding a white donkey. On a blistering summer’s day in 2006, Yaakov Israel peered through the heat waves and saw, emerging in the distance, a man atop a white donkey. “He materialized,” says Israel, a photographer based in Jerusalem, “like a fata morgana,” a mirage.

Israel’s book The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey will be released in the U.S. this fall.

This man on a donkey was no illusion — nor, most would contest, was he the messiah. Instead, his arrival from the desert and into Israel’s lens gave the photographer a guide for a photo project he has worked on for the past decade, crystallized in a new book, The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey. Israel’s pictures are the product of years of wanderings in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and in the spaces in-between, seeking to document a vision of its people and landscapes away from the noise of an intractable political conflict and the rumbling news media that watches it.

In the spirit of U.S. photographers who chronicled their journeys through the American vastness, Israel would wake up early in the morning and head off in a direction, photographing what he saw and whom he encountered along the way. Of course, unlike in the U.S., Israel, traveling in the country that bears his name, would invariably run into one or two political borders by nightfall. And so his gaze dwells on the quiet of certain moments — “the small clues for me that exist in each image,” as he puts it — that tell a story of daily life in a land whose deep history and uncertain future are woven through with gestures that are at once religious, political and inescapably human.

A girl wades into the Sea of Galilee, her arms held wide as if choosing between crucifixion and baptism. Spools of barbed wire are followed in the book by tangles of thorns and a sea of dandelions; men with guns look on, at times curious, at times detached. A backpacker sleeps. The hills glow and soak in sunlight.

Israel emphasizes the everyday nature of his subjects — “these are people I’m just bumping into every time I go out.” Often, they would go out of their way to accommodate Israel, posing patiently, introducing him to family and friends, pointing to new vistas for his camera. In one scene, a pair of Arab workers who had intended to go to work choose instead to hang out with Israel and share their breakfast with him. “These episodes of human courtesy happened again and again,” says Israel. “For me, these small things tell another kind of political story.”

The man on the white donkey, a Palestinian farmer, was no different. In 45 degrees Celsius heat, he agreed without hesitation to participate in Israel’s project, desperately trying to keep his steed still until an image became clear.

Yaakov Israel is a Jerusalem-based photographer. See more of his work here.

The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey will be available in the U.S. this fall. The project recently won the PhotoEspaña Descubrimientos (PHE12 Discoveries) 2012 Award.

TIME Looks Back at The Best Photos… of Photos from 2011

Whether it’s a time of happiness or sadness, celebration or condolence, pictures capture the essence of a moment in time and preserve it, so we can look back and recall — if only for a second — how that moment made us feel.

For this reason, photographs tend to elicit strong reactions. And for the picture-holder, these mementos are also deeply personal, representing a life left behind, a new beginning, or a rest stop in our fast-paced lives.

Here, LightBox curates a crop of images that give us a glimpse into others’ memories. These are photos of photos — a nostalgic, if not somewhat contemplative look into a world within a world, where blissful instants are lost among a sea of uncertainty, and moments from the past are frozen in the present, stark in the contrast between then and now.

Some of the most emblematic photos of photos from the past year came from Japan, as family portraits smiled up from among the post-tsunami dust and debris. The photographs pictured are reminiscent of lives that were lost — either by death or through the sheer magnitude of this disaster — with only the vast unknown remaining.

In Libya, photos of burning, destructed images of Muammar Gaddafi diverged from framed pictures of the fallen dictator that were constantly brandished by his supporters. Back in the U.S., photos of lost loved ones were posted alongside their names at the 9/11 Memorial, in New York City, in a tribute to people who will never be forgotten. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, mourners paid their respects to actress Elizabeth Taylor by surrounding her picture with flowers on her Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

These photos of photos leave us reminiscing about those pictured, and what their lives must have been like before everything changed. But even the tattered remains of photographs can’t erase what lies in the mind, where memories flourish undisturbed and these moments are never forgotten. —Erin Skarda


Rawiya Photo Collective

 

Rawiya is a photography collective founded by five female photographers from across the Middle East.

Rawiya presents an insider’s view of a region in flux balancing its contradictions while reflecting on social and political issues and stereotypes.

As a collective, Rawiya’s photographers respect the human dignity of the stories they tell, pooling resources and vision to produce in-depth photo-essays and long-term projects.

Rawiya, meaning “she who tells a story”, brings together the experiences and photographic styles of Tamara Abdul Hadi, Laura Boushnak, Tanya Habjouwa, Dalia Khamissy and Newsha Tavakolian.

 

Visit Rawiya Photo Collective

Rawiya on Facebook

Or click on a photo below to see that photographer’s website:

Tamara Abdul Hadi
Laura Bousnak
Tanya Habjouqa
Dalia Khamissy
Newsha Tavakolian

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Photographer #330: Fernando Moleres

Fernando Moleres, 1963, Spain, is a socially engaged photojournalist based in Barcelona. He started his working career as a nurse. In the beginning of his photographic career he combined his nursing work with long periods travelling and doing photographic projects. He travels extensively to various countries in Africa, the Middle-East and Asia covering stories on gender inequality, various forms of religion, traditional bathing rituals and juveniles in prison. In 2000 he released Stolen Childhood showing the story of child labour in black and white photographs. In 2009 his monograph about monastic life called Lifes of Devotion came out. For his recent series Juveniles in Prison he was awarded the Daily Life Series award by World Press Photo in 2011. The following images come from the series Juveniles in Prison, Monastic Life and Turkish Baths-Hammam.

Website: www.fernandomoleres.com

Photographer #330: Fernando Moleres

Fernando Moleres, 1963, Spain, is a socially engaged photojournalist based in Barcelona. He started his working career as a nurse. In the beginning of his photographic career he combined his nursing work with long periods travelling and doing photographic projects. He travels extensively to various countries in Africa, the Middle-East and Asia covering stories on gender inequality, various forms of religion, traditional bathing rituals and juveniles in prison. In 2000 he released Stolen Childhood showing the story of child labour in black and white photographs. In 2009 his monograph about monastic life called Lifes of Devotion came out. For his recent series Juveniles in Prison he was awarded the Daily Life Series award by World Press Photo in 2011. The following images come from the series Juveniles in Prison, Monastic Life and Turkish Baths-Hammam.

Website: www.fernandomoleres.com