Beyond The Wall

‘Beyond The Wall’ is a series of portraits of Israeli and Palestinian men which I began photographing a week before the last war broke out in Gaza (December 2008). The men are shown standing, facing the camera, against a wall. I have always been struck by the similarity of these two people and how closely their cultures relate. Yet both seem incapable of seeing each other or recognizing the others right to exist. “The other” is not seen as a subject with feelings, hopes and desires; he is viewed as an object that is both threatening and frightening. As a consequence of this denial to acknowledge his real identity, his humanity and he’s suffering, the violence inflicted on the other is presented as defensive and justifiable.

The State of Israel has erected a barrier which is an 8 metre high concrete wall and is approximately 703 kilometres in length. It runs within the West Bank and along part of the border of Israel and Jordan. Supporters argue that the barrier is a necessary tool protecting Israeli civilians from Palestinian terrorism; Opponents argue that the barrier is an illegal attempt to annex Palestinian land under the pretence of security. Originally I thought to make these portraits against the wall that divides the two communities but it became clear to me that this specific wall has become a symbol of divide and dividing walls are not just physical matter. We build walls around ourselves to protect and resist another. These walls are a temporary and often unsatisfying solution often leaving us with feelings of alienation and abandonment. I am suggesting that the walls are also psychological and the barriers that need to be removed are inside us. I took this idea of the wall with its double meaning and used this as the backdrop for these portraits.

To have ones back against the wall is a position of vulnerability and mirrored my own feeling of ‘helplessness’.  The desire to raise awareness of issues which I am personally affected by has been a strong drive to make all my photographic work.

By taking these portraits and hanging them together I have created a space where the external signifiers of ethnicity are no longer important and individual men face one another, not as “the other” but as fellow human beings.

These portraits do not try to address the blame, injustice or suffering which is real and wrong, they aim to remind us that beyond these defensive positions we are more alike than different

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