03 November 2013

The Politics of Josef Koudelka's WALL

"Koudelka’s pictures have an eerie, meditative texture. Many of them are structured around the glaring contrast between the Wall, always intrusive, harsh, ophidian, and the organic, still living world of hills, terraces, and valleys on either side of it. Paradoxically, these photographs are beautiful, almost too beautiful, to look at—despite, or perhaps because of, the raw wound they reveal."
I've lifted the passage above from this post at NYRB that Israeli activist and academic David Shulman has written on a new book* by Josef Koudelka. Shulman, himself a member of an Israeli-Palestinian Peace group called Ta‘ayush (meaning roughly 'living together'), is intimately familiar with the politics surrounding what the Israeli government euphemistically calls "separation barrier." I admire both Koudelka and Shulman immensely and have posted on each frequently- see here and here respectively. Here are a baker's half-dozen images from Koudelka:

A roadblock on Route 443 in the West Bank
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Replanted olive trees, Ma’ale Adummim settlement
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

A demolished house near Qedar settlement. 
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Al ‘Eizariya, East Jerusalem. 
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

A road sign indicating directions to Rachel’s Tomb and to Jerusalem
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Al Walaja, south of Jerusalem
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem area
Photograph © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos.

As Shulman attests these images depersonalize suffering. Does their beauty - and the fact that they are more or less wholly de-populated -  deflate the all to common worry that photography aestheticizes suffering?
* Josef Koudelka. WALL. (NY: Aperture, 2013).

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Blogger Stan B. said...

one of photography's inherent strengths and weaknesses- the photograph is always better or worse than what you actually photographed. If worse (as is usually the case), no one bothers looking; if it makes a 'bad situation' look 'better,' you've aestheticized reality. It's inherent to the medium, and definitely worth pondering, debating and discussing, but ultimately... it's part of the medium's very DNA.

At this point, I'm more likely to wonder if Mr. Koudelka would have tried to photograph a more dynamic viewpoint with the same content matter and more people interaction if he was considerably younger and more energetic.

07 November, 2013 15:36  

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