Excerpts from my journal as I examine and portray the troubles in the Levant
Musa Al Shaer views his photos from the day’s photo session in the village of Al Masara
Several general impressions of my photographic colleague Musa al Shaer: he is a generous, hospitable man. He invited me to meet his family in Tuqu’, southeast of Bethlehem by about 12 kilometers, and eat with them. He bought the lipstick I plan to give M back home. He drove me to my home in Beit Sahour. He allowed me to photograph him as he surveyed his day’s photographs from the Al Masara demonstration we both photographed, and he showed me many of his photos on-line. He established and runs a charitable society in his village. He also shared intimately that finances are tight with 3 daughters in university (Birzeit, Bethlehem, Jenin), one about to enter university (Nadeen in the States), and 2 boys growing up. He would like to immigrate to the USA, he entered a lottery for which he paid money but lost.
At dinner, the exquisite Palestinian main course delicacy, maklube, that his wife had made, we discussed my query about checking the camera monitor during a photographic session. I launched the topic gingerly by asking, when did you begin work with Agence France-Press (AFP)?
That would be film days?
Yes. I shifted to digital around 2001.
And now about looking at the monitor. Doesn’t this tend to draw the photographer out of the scene?
Maybe but it also draws the photographer into the scene by showing what has been accomplished so far. I seek something about the event to show, something that stands for the whole [synecdoche], and I check to see if I’ve achieved it.
Ok, I said, that’s valid. That’s one way to work. I prefer something slower, allowing for gestation. And I used the example of his wife with a fetus trying to rush the delivery. That can’t happen (except for a Caesarian section, a procedure that is growing in popularity but that some believe is risky and needless, part of the rushed times). Ditto for the photograph. Or so I believe, mystically.
So my 3 arguments, not all used in this discussion, against incessant monitor checks are 1. distraction, 2. little developing awareness of what the camera sees, that is, anticipation, most useful for wild mind photography which I practice much of the time, and 3. this mystical concept of gestation, that the photos need time to evolve.
I felt heard, understood, and not a troubling thorn.
Two daughters and their older brother then took me for a little tour of their house and grounds. They wanted to show me some of their neighbors, the settlers in Tekoa, a name similar to the name of village. I photographed the children; buds of olives and lemons and prickly pear cactus; the settlement; and the monumental Roman mounded palace fortification, Herodion, in the distance. (None of the siblings had ever visited. They explained, even tho Herodion is in the West Bank we can’t enter unless we’re with international guests, an unwritten law—no Palestinians allowed)
As we entered the village I made a short video to send to my sister who knows the family’s daughter, Nadeen, in high school in Juneau Alaska on an exchange program. And from the roof of the family home we could view the Dead Sea and Jordan.
Before this festive meeting Musa and I had photographed a non-violent demonstration against the wall and land confiscation in the village of Al Masara. So when I arrived home after the family visit I checked my photos (linked below) from the demo and asked myself, any better or worse than Musa’s? I’d say a little worse, mainly because of my relative inexperience. Or I might be wrong, some might be worth showing. The close-up portraits of soldiers and the panoramic of the soldier line. Maybe a few of the boys. Boys were the most impressive elements to me, along with some speeches, especially the one by Mahmoud, and also the restraint and apparent good will of the military. My theme with this photo set was boys with signs and men with guns.
Prickly pear cactus (edible)
Herodion with the Israeli settlement of Tokea in the foreground