Posts Tagged ‘photojournalism’

The conclusion of my attempt to explicate what I attempt to do photographically.


I began when my father gave me a camera, probably a cheap Kodak Brownie, at the age of 7.

Fran70 2

Frank Schiel, 1964 c, my father, photo by Skip Schiel


Caldwell School playground, Chicago’s Southside, 1950 c.,
photo by Skip Schiel

I lost a good Kodak foldout camera at a train station in Michigan while waiting to return from Boy Scout camp when about 12 years old.

Kodak folding camera


Pearl Schiel, 1954, my mother, photo by Skip Schiel

When I was in high school my father brought out his old high school chemistry notes and perhaps accidentally turned to the section on photographic chemistry. I was immediately entranced and about 5 years later while in college I built my first darkroom in the basement kitchen of the rooming house I shared with other men in Seattle, Washington. They were not happy with the odors.

I hitchhiked around the Midwest during college breaks in the early 1960s to make slide shows and show them to family and neighbors, most of whom fell asleep.

Skip flashed early1960

Self portrait by Skip Schiel, 1960

Iowa Farm

Iowa Farm, 1962, photo by Skip Schiel

Great plains

The Great Plains, 1962 c, believed by many to be too boring to photograph, photo by Skip Schiel

Partly because of the rotten reception to my slide shows I tried to burn most of my early slides in our basement fireplace, my mother stopped me. I have no idea where those slides are now and do not care.

At some point early in my life I learned that my grandfather Ben Schiel had long ago opened a photographic portrait studio in Dubuque, Iowa. It probably quickly failed as did most of his other enterprises.

Ben 1910 Palace Studio

Ben Schiel in front of his Palace Photographic Studio, Dubuque, Iowa, 1910

I am reassured that I might be on a good path by the fact that the Schiel family consists of at least four generations of photographers—my grandfather Ben, my father Frank (a dedicated but talentless amateur), me, and my daughter Joey, full of talent. Who knows, perhaps the illustrious Austrian artist, Egon Schiele, is part of my family lineage. And what will become of my grandchildren, Rex, Cid, and Eleanor?


End suffering and foster enlightenment, traditional Buddhist values.

Do this with my camera, thru participation in struggles for environmental integrity and justice—Charles River, Boston Harbor, and Quabbin Reservoir in 1980s; American Indians begun in 1982; Bread and Puppet Theater, begun in the early 1980s and sporadically continuing; South Africa in 1990 and 1998; working with the Struggles Against Racism photographers’ collective in 1990s; Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrimage in 1995; Middle Passage Pilgrimage in 1998; and my 3 current projects, Israel-Palestine beginning in 2003, Detroit which began in 2010, and my new Twilight series, a departure from my politically based work: I explore light, that narrow slice of the 24 hour diurnal cycle known otherwise as the Magic Hour.


I call myself a participatory, socially engaged photographer which means I participate in actions striving for justice and then photographically observe and interpret the actions about human rights. I also show conditions which lead to these actions and provide context.


Skip Schiel in the Dheisheh refugee camp, Bethlehem, 2003, photo by Mark Daoud

I take some risks: I am willing to suffer for the truth. As W. Eugene Smith declared, “I have tried to let truth be my prejudice.”


Demonstration outside Ofer prison for prisoners’ rights, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

—Robert Capa

My Israel-Palestine photo series is at times controversial. As when a few people at my Quaker meeting walked out of my first slide show, Facts on the Ground, but we’ve reconciled—or are reconciling.

An upcoming lecture of [Schiel’s at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education] is entitled: The Hydropolitics of Israel and Palestine. What photography course would be complete without a little “evil Israelis are dehydrating the innocent Palestinians”-style propaganda? The lecture is overpriced at $2.

…Schiel has many fine photos as well as a gallery. You must understand what a sad joke this is. Foreigners visit, put themselves under the command of local Arab leaders and involve themselves in provoking and providing cover for those who provoke the Israeli soldiers — soldiers who are far more disciplined than to treat them as they probably deserve. 

solomonia.com, 2007

During my last slide show at Friends Meeting at Cambridge in 2012, Eyewitness Gaza, the pro-Israel organization, Stand with Us, and Kerry Hurwitz picketed outside and later tracked me to Chicago. Writing a letter about me to local Jewish leaders, they may have blocked a high school visit organized by the American Friends Service Committee in 2011. On that same tour, showing at a mosque, someone misread my slide show and angrily shut me down—he thought I was pro-Israel.

In 2011, Tom Jackson, with significant help from Adham Khalil in Gaza, made a film about Gaza and me, Eyewitness Gaza, how I work there and why. I feel it accurately portrays my work in that region and of that style, politically informed and intended. Later with much help from Maria Termini, I published a book of my photos with the same title, Eyewitness Gaza.

Eyewitness Gaza (the movie)

A three minute preview

A ten minute preview of Eyewitness Gaza (made early in the editing process)

The full movie, fifty minutes long

An interview with me by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine

Eyewitness Gaza (the book)

Aside from the message or content, this is my method: experiment; draw from traditions represented by W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, Sabastio Selgado, Magnum photographers, and many others in my lineage; intend to surprise, entertain, and teach. Bathe the audience in beauty, a beauty that treads the thin line between horror and beauty. As Dostoevsky stated in The Idiot—Beauty will save the world.

… it has been publicly [implied] that I am anti-Semitic because of a cartoon I created expressing sad dismay at the plight and suffering of the Palestinians in the recent bombardment of Gaza [November 2012].

As a cartoonist I am not interested in defending the dominant, the powerful, the well-resourced and the well-armed because such groups are usually not in need of advocacy, moral support or sympathetic understanding; they have already organised sufficient publicity for themselves and prosecute their points of view with great efficiency.

The work of the artist is to express what is repressed or even to speak the unspoken grief of society. And the cartoonist’s task is not so much to be balanced as to give balance, particularly in situations of disproportionate power relationships such as we see in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a healthy tradition dating back to the court jester and beyond: to be the dissenting protesting voice that speaks when others cannot or will not.

—Michael Leunig, “Just a cartoonist with a moral duty to speak”.


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You might find it an interesting exercise to talk about your process as a photographer. Who are you as a person? What draws you to make an image? Who are your influences? One of the points of exhibiting work on the walls of the Friends Center (in Cambridge MA) is to get to know one another better. So we would like you to step back just a bit from photographs as message only. Think of it as a unique opportunity to become known in a way that would not be appropriate to one of your usual presentations. Also the exercise of self-reflection can be quite beneficial for most of us as we all tend to see the world fairly subjectively even when we think we are being very objective and that we are dedicated “truth-tellers.”

—George, one of the curators of the exhibit, Gaza & the West Bank, at Friends Meeting at Cambridge, January 2013


Thanks to Pat Rabby and an African tradition she discovered: everyday honor the ancestors, contemporaries, and successors in one’s lineage. So, I honor W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke White, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Julia Margaret Cameron, Sebastio Salgado, and Henri Cartier-Bresson as ancestors, thanking them for their examples and teaching; photographers I work with or know about as contemporaries, thanking them for covering topics I don’t have time or experience for; and my students and those who might view my photos and learn from them (positive as well as negative lessons) as successors. I pray to offer a vital if small contribution to my lineage. This way I do not have to be intimidated by the achievements of others or compete with peers. I remain grateful for all their contributions to the unending stream of good photography.

As long as I can earn enough to pay my taxes I’ll be happy. I’m not a professional photographer you know, I’m an amateur. “Amateur” is the French word for lover.

— Imogen Cunningham

Julia Margaret Cameron | Tennyson's

Alfred Lord Tennyson, photo by Julia Margaret Cameron

Dorothea Lange- Washington, Yakima Valley, near Wapato. One of Chris Adolf's younger children. Farm Security Administration Rehabilitation clients.

Yakima Valley Washington during the Great Depression, photo by Dorothea Lange

In this 1942 Dorothea Lange photograph from the newly published “Impounded,” a family in Hayward, Calif., awaits an evacuation bus.

From the book, Impounded, a family in Hayward, Calif awaits an evacuation bus to a Japanese American internment camp, 1942, photo by Dorothea Lange

Lange on car-SM

Dorothea Lange

Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.

—Dorothea Lange

00582706: (00/00/0)

Margaret Bourke White

Weston point lobos CROPPED

Point Lobos, 1939, photo by Edward Weston

Edward Weston, Charis Wilson-SM

Charis Wilson, photo by Edward Weston

Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.

—Edward Weston


Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson


Henri Cartier-Bresson, photo by Jane Brown

To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It’s a way of life.

—Henri Cartier-Bresson

Refugee camp at Benako, Tanzania, 1994. © Sebastião Salgado

Refugee camp at Benako, Tanzania, 1994, photo by Sebastiao Salgado



Margaret Bourke-White’s photo of black South African gold miners, deep beneath Johannesburg, made in 1950. Inspired by this photograph I worked twice in South Africa in 1990 and 1998.


Pete Seeger as pictured at Harvard by Jon Chace in 2000 c, with my photo made in 1996, Pete’s banjo quote: This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender, after Woody’s This machine kills fascists. Seeger combined art and activism in a powerful, emulatable manner.

US navy war photos

My first photo book, US Navy War Photographs, compiled by Captain Edward Steichen, USNR, published around 1947, that I bought in a drug store on Chicago’s South Side around 1951

Coffee for Eniwetok Marine Survivors


From US Navy War Photographs

Photographers mate 2 2

Photographer’s Mate-3,2,1, Chief, published 1961-1964, I studied the entire series assiduously, as if myself preparing to be Chief Photographer’s Mate



An exhibit of W. Eugene Smith’s photos of WW2 that I saw in Kyoto Japan in 1995, wondering,
why would a conquered nation exhibit photos showing its conquest and suffering?

Woolman booklet

John Woolman, the Quaker luminary. With David Morse, I made a booklet which includes many of my photos related to the booklet’s topic, 2000. (Click on the image for a copy.)


Devil’s Slide by Minor White, with whom I informally studied when he taught at MIT. With others we co-founded a school of photography at Project Inc. in Cambridge Massachusetts around 1970.

MLK_mosaic_poster-gabe greenbergMartin Luther King Jr, as shown pensively in a mosaic photo by Gabe Greenberg

…During a recent march in Nabi Saleh village in Palestine, children carried signs that quoted Dr. King. One sign read: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. They held up it up as they marched to get water for their village, only to be rebuffed by tear gas, rubber bullets, and at least one live round. Yet they stood holding another one of King’s admonishments: “If a man has not found something he is willing to die for, then he is not fit to live.”…

—Spare Change News editorial, January 11-24, 2013


Okinawa, Japan, World War 2, photo by W. Eugene Smith

w. eugen smith 2-minimata

From the book, Minimata, about a small Japanese fishing village poisoned by mercury, photo by W. Eugene Smith

From the ground-breaking, world-traveling photography exhibition, The Family of Man, the photo The Way to Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith, the final photograph in the series. I read this book when it was published in 1955, in my mind marking a division between hope for a sane world and the later belief that humans are doomed—hopelessness as conveyed by much of subsequent photojournalism.

In 2005 I summarized much of my photographic life in a keynote presentation I made at New England Yearly Meeting sessions (Quaker), “And you will be carried where you do not wish to go, a photographic witness.” (in 8 parts, February 2010)

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to gird your loins and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your arms, and someone else will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go. (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he [Peter] would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

—John 21: 18

I ponder how my photography is both mirror and window.


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For those accustomed to mass-media photojournalism, Skip Schiel’s approach to his craft and resulting body of work might come as a bit of a surprise. Schiel is a participatory photographer, a photojournalist who moves past traditional barriers of objectivity toward a more immersive experience with his subjects. His work, while most often centered in an area of conflict, such as his ongoing projects in Israel and Palestine, does not share the intense focus on violence and strife that most photojournalists seek out in such places, highlighting instead subtler aspects of daily life — a peace march, a market scene, a shared smile…


“The participatory photography of Skip Schiel” by Amy Fletcher in the Juneau Empire (newspaper), September 27, 2012

For one month I presented a series of multimedia shows and print exhibits on the west coast. Twenty-four venues (10 in Alaska, 2 in Oregon, and 12 in California) including churches and Friends meetings, libraries, middle and high schools as well as universities, a TV station, peace centers, and homes. Six different multimedia shows and one print exhibit. Benefits for 3 organizations. Some 15 hours of discussion following presentations. 4 radio interviews. Audiences ranging from 3 to more than 100. Voluntary contributions to respectable fees. And audience responses from warm to lukewarm with a few people hostile (either at the shows or by expressing distaste for my work by removing announcement posters).

I learned a great deal about the issues, my shows, my photography and how to present it, people who generously hosted me overnight, and the region I traveled thru by plane, train, and car. I can’t assess the impact of these shows, whether they will influence events in the Levant. I hope the shows improved with experience. I do know that many people met each other who are active in the movement for Palestinian rights. And this might help strengthen that movement.

My perception is that the movement for justice, peace, security, reconciliation and the application of international law in Palestine-Israel is growing. A key factor is awareness, which is my emphasis, and exhortation to activate, another emphasis of mine. The BDS or Boycott-Divest-Sanction movement gains traction in many regions I visited.

Multimedia shows: The Hydropolitics of Palestine and Israel; Eyewitness Gaza; Israel, the Occupied Territories, and Nonviolent Resistance; Facts on the Ground (a shorter, more basic show developed especially for schools and audiences completely unfamiliar with the region and its issues); Tracing the Jordan River; and Descendants of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Plus the print exhibit, Gaza is Home to One & One-half Million Human Beings, How Do They Live?

With much gratitude to my primary organizers, Elaine Schroeder in Alaska and Louise Dunlap in California. Plus numerous local organizers and hosts and the friends who served as a preview group before I went on the road. The organizers and hosts spun a spiderweb of connections that I simply climbed along to find audiences. I am also grateful to the many financial contributors to this tour, those at my shows who offered donations and bought books and DVDs.

As I was about to leave Juneau Elaine asked me what had been the highlight of my Alaskan visit. I answered, the 90 6th graders I presented to. A solid hour of discussion. Suffering, risk, and death were among the main topics. “Did you see any dead bodies?” Very few adults ever asked me such a question.

I now contemplate a spring tour to the Pacific Northwest. I’m looking for a regional coordinator and I’m willing to pay for this service. Any leads appreciated.

Thanks for staying tuned.

I wanted to thank you again for visiting with my students on the 24th of September.  I think they got a lot from having the Israeli/Palestinian water conflict described to them “up close and personal.” 

Students have responded to the water issues as you described them and as they studied them briefly before your visit.  You can see their responses on my two class blogs at:




 (You may have to click on the red response button to read the students’ entries.)

—Jody Smothers Marcello, a high school teacher in Sitka Alaska, after I visited her class with my show, Hydropolitics of Palestine and Israel.

Rocky Mountains, Montana

Fairweather fast ferry, Sitka to Juneau, Alaska


Great Blue Heron, Sitka

Point Lobos, California

Berkeley Street Sundays




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Excerpts from my journal as I examine and portray the troubles in the Levant


May 24, 2012, Thursday, Kibbutz Lotan, Israel

I neared Lotan—I carry multiple maps, happy I do, since no single map contains all the sites or roads I’m looking for or curious about—and so I remembered Rabbi Jan’s suggestion of the environmentally oriented kibbutz here in the heart of the Negev Desert. I phoned, learned they had a vacancy, overnight would cost me 300 NIS (about $75). Seek it, young man, seek it! A childhood dream realized: to experience a kibbutz. Thru the gate, into an oasis in the desert. Green green green is the proper descriptor for this place.

I settled, showered, napped, inquired about tours and meals, enjoyed the rotund young woman at the reception office and her muzzled dog (he eats garbage and gets sick), learned I might meet Rabbi Daniel Burstyn (which I did later in the evening, a cursory meeting, not a very congenial guy, or so he seemed to me), and wandered the site several times, before and after a kosher meal in the dining hall.

The food was bland, pizza and salad, no dessert, no main course, unless pizza serves. The table conversation nil, sitting with a group of college age youth who I assumed were interns or students. They talked among themselves, I overheard, no one asked me whom I was, and I asked no one about their role here. The main feature of this event was an environmental mural which I photographed later. Then the evening walk to enjoy the relative coolness. I discovered a few caravans, probably the same type used by settlers to establish “Facts on the ground.” These were unused. They also reminded me of abandoned trailers on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Much of the land I’ve explored in the Negev desert reminds me of the land and people of the Great Plains. Then a sort of community house which was a mess, the door open, air conditioner running. I shut the door. But in other parts of the kibbutz I found and photographed stylish homes, much sculpture (Daniel pointed out a collection made by one of the residents over years), gardens (Daniel is not only a rabbi but a landscape gardener, perhaps this is how he earns his living?), hammocks, pathways, walls made of old tires, the “green room” deep down inside the earth, perhaps designed as a bomb or rocket shelter, now used for education judging from the books, sheets of paper, and notes I found lying about.

I wrote M, checked my email, downloaded the day’s photos, examined them, relatively pleased with my work, looking forward to all the post processing I will do when (and if I ever reach, seems so far away, impossible to reach) home, and generally relaxed after a long drive south.

May 25, 2012, Friday, Israeli network youth hostel in Mitzpe Ramon, Israel

Waste water treatment

Compost feces and urine

Parabolic reflector cooker

Morning at Lotan was a big part of yesterday. Guy or Gee gave me a private tour that lasted well over 60 minutes. We viewed and he explained their toilet system (simply collect, drain, let rest, and wallah, compost which they use for shrubs and trees, not edibles because of some people’s perception that this would be toxic—instead he claimed such composting can destroy even heavy metals), waste water treatment (thru rocks, sand, and plants, after settling), organic gardening (not during the summer because of the heat and aridity, too much water needed), solar panels (that generate most of the electricity needed by one residential section, on the grid, they add to it during sun, and take from it otherwise), play space, experiment space, many buildings (straw bale construction over metal, plastered with mud), sheep and goats (used only for milk, as are the cows which we didn’t see, later sold for meat but not slaughtered here), solar ovens and a parabolic reflector stove for fast cooking, etc. The kibbutz of some 60 people (50 is the minimum until Israel reclaims the land, cutting the subsidy) uses 6 vehicles, and many many bikes. They cannot afford any alternatively powered vehicles such as grease cars.

I thought of Agape, thought of Ruah, and thought of M when I spotted an article reprint that details life on this kibbutz. I picked up a copy for each. The place is truly revolutionary, living out a portion of Jewish values. Especially caring for the earth and each other. Exemplary. I’d love to return, stay awhile.

I first met Guy after I’d finished an exquisite breakfast (which I photographed) of omelet, home-baked bread, pesto, various cheeses made from goat milk, Jewish coffee (as opposed to Arab coffee, Jewish simply made by adding hot water to finely ground coffee powder, adding some cold water, stirring and let settle, also called mud coffee), salad with oil and vinegar dressing, topped off with 2 sweet dessert balls. Served by 2 young women in the solar teahouse. I shared the space with a small Israeli family who appear to be visiting. Guy stood out as he rode up to the teahouse on his bike—he wore a wide-brimmed hat he’d made from a large piece of cardboard. He explained, my complexion burns easily. This helps. He volunteers for one year between high school and the army. We did not talk politics. I gathered that he’d like to see the conflict end.

The office worker, Daphna, had offered to throw my dirty clothes in with the laundry so I picked mine up, delivered my key, expressed how pleased I was with the kibbutz and my 24 hours there, promised to publicize it and encourage friends to visit. And joked: it is so far away. Maybe when we can shape-shift or time travel I’ll be able to encourage more friends to come here.


Kibbutz Lotan

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Tulkarem, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

Al Masaara, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

—Thomas Merton


In this ongoing pilgrimage [to Palestine-Israel] of yours, where is the art? (Thanks to Chuck Fager)

In two places, ethics and graphics, which is precisely where art needs to be located.

In the case of ethics, I strive to ground my art in the deepest compassion and wisdom I can muster. This is particularly crucial for my work about the Middle East. Secondly, as much as possible I share experiences with those I photograph, currently mostly Palestinians, going thru checkpoints, blocked by the annexation wall, confronting the Israeli military, etc. Two quotes that might help: the first about my recent work, “You photograph not only with your eyes but with your heart.” (Fares Oda, West Bank American Friends Service Committee staff). And the second from Charlie Parker which I often use with my photo students when they ask me how they can improve their photos—“If you haven’t lived it (life), it won’t come out of your horn.”

Zohar, Negev, Israel, 2012

Cistern evacuation, Jerusalem, 2012

In the case of graphics (perhaps esthetics is a better word), I play with angles, lighting, vantage points, frame, etc, the usual techniques photographers like to concentrate on. I use what I call “wild mind photography,” a term I derived from “wild mind writing” as taught by Natalie Goldberg. No restrictions, no judges, total play and experimentation. For me my must frequent form of this is not using the viewfinder to frame or find the view, but rely on my instincts about what the camera sees. This often results in useless images which I cast away but from time to time produces something I regard to be extraordinary.

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

Additionally, the Mediterranean light pervading the Levant captivates me. Light is central to photography. I strive to know it, use it, affect others by how I use it. This also is art.

Bedouin village, Negev, Israel, 2012

How has your art in this project changed over time? Has it?

I struggle to shift from the generic to the specific, from shallow to deep, from diffident to more confident, from personal to universal, and to better use metaphor and synecdoche. Whether I achieve this goal I can’t say.

Where is the spirit in it? How has it affected your life?

My response to the spirit part of this question is in my response to your first query. In addition, I pay homage to my muses and  to the endless stream of photographers which constitutes my lineage: my ancestors, my contemporaries (who I refuse to compete with, but feel they are colleagues sharing our passion), and descendants, those I teach thru my formal teaching and my photo examples. Is this spirit? You can decide.

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine, 2012

My art is central to my life. I identify first as a human being, then as a photographer. Quaker, Christian, Buddhist, lover, friend, father, etc. come later. For amplification, if you’re interested please check my artist statement on my website: teeksaphotography.org.

Thanks Friend for your questions. I hope this begins to answer.

Zohar, Negev, Israel, 2012

What most of us must be involved in—whether we teach or write, make films, write films, direct films, play music, act, whatever we do—has to not only make people feel good and inspired and at one with other people around them, but also has to educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world.

― Howard Zinn, Artists in Times of War and Other Essays


Artists in Times of War, by Howard Zinn

Slide show: “And you will be carried where you do not wish to go,” a photographic witness &  summary (for the moment & as of 2005) of my photography

“And you will be carried where you do not wish to go,” a photographic witness 
Part 8 & earlier, added April 2 – May 24, 2010 (click on links to read earlier chapters)

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 1 
Revised and added January 16, 2010

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 2
Revised and added January 21, 2010

As an Artist, How Do I Survive & Thrive?
Revised and added February 15, 2010

Notes on My Quaker Connections in Palestine
Revised and added January 28, 2010

West Coast tour, fall 2012 (September 18 – October 18, Alaska to California)

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Photographs by Skip Schiel from Palestine & Israel

Skip Schiel has been documenting the Palestinian and Israeli reality through photographs and journal postings since 2003—work with a better feel for the detailed texture of life in Gaza and the West Bank than any appearing in US media. Schiel spends time where most journalists dare not tread, amidst ordinary Palestinians, sharing in the dangers and frustrations of their lives.

His work has been invaluable for my own. As a writer for a Buddhist publication whose parents were victims of the Holocaust, I try to convey a view of the conflict that differs from the US media’s, which obfuscates the injustices and sufferings inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. Through his portraits of Palestinian men, women, and children striving to maintain ordinary routines despite harassment and attacks by Israel’s military, Skip reveals to us the true face of Palestinians.

—Annette Herskovits, Consulting Editor, Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Jerusalem, Israel-Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

A slide show of recent photographs (2012)


I will tour the West Coast this fall (2012) with my photos and would like to book presentations in the region listed below, either networks, schools, faith and community groups, or individuals.

Alaska, September 19-October 2, 2012
Seattle to San Francisco, October 3-5

California Bay Area and Northern California, October 5-17.

I’ll revise some of my shows with photos and stories from my most recent spring 2012 trip. Report here.

West Coast 2012 Tour Announcement

Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Negev desert, Israel

With the support of many in my local and national Quaker community, since 2003 I been traveling to Israel and Palestine to investigate and portray conditions and struggles. I have worked with a variety of organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian and joint organizations (see below), volunteering to make photographs for them that I also can circulate as slide shows and print exhibitions. My hope is to open eyes and doors and windows, encouraging awareness and action.

MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATIONS Slideshows, print exhibits, and a movie featuring photos, audio & thoughtful narration, updated from my recent 10-week trip during spring 2012

Falafel, Jenin, West Bank, Palestine

Negev desert, Israel


Descendants of Abraham, Sarah, & Hagar

Based primarily on my most recent trip to Palestine-Israel in spring 2012, an exploration of people and activities on different sides of the conflict.

Eyewitness Gaza

The new show concentrates on his personal experiences and its political context, 2 years after the devastating Israeli attacks of Operation Cast Lead. Youth, their conditions and struggles, child to young adult, is the main theme. I explore the lives of people still living in tents and in recently constructed rudimentary dwellings. They continue to suffer the ongoing Israeli siege and internal political violence, while being ignored by most of the international community. The American Friends Service Committee is a major segment, showing one way hope and resiliency are fostered. (I’ve published a book by the same title, available here)

On the way to Gaza

Tracing the Jordan River

A slide show exploring this historic river from one of the headwaters of the Jordan, the Banias flowing from Mt Hermon in the Golan Heights, to where the much-abused river disappears before the Dead Sea in the West Bank of Palestine. With an examination of the Sea of Galilee, especially the region of the major share of Christ’s ministry in and around Capernaum, the dying Dead Sea, well-watered Jericho, and the kibbutzim, Israeli settlements intended to reclaim land and define the contours of the forthcoming Israeli nation. A slice thru the topography, geology, hydrology, history, and politics of the region.

Dismantling The Matrix of Control

An examination, based on the brilliant analysis of Jeff Halper, of the mechanisms Israel uses to maintain the occupation: checkpoints, separation or annexation wall/fence, permit system, road blocks, Israeli-only roads, military court system, closed military zones, and closures and incursions. Plus how to end it.

The Hydropolitics of Palestine/Israel

Israel-Palestine has scant water resources, but now with the current strife water is a dramatic mirror of power relationships. Through an examination of water in various settings—small Palestinian villages & the Gaza strip— along with large cities shared by Israeli Jews & Arabs—Haifa & Jerusalem—I portray a very difficult to visualize topic. Updated with new photos from spring 2012.

Bethlehem the Holy, the Struggle for an Ancient City

Bethlehem is rapidly becoming Imprisoned Bethlehem, surrounded on all sides by an 8-meter (23 foot) high concrete wall, with checkpoint access restricted. Thus, Christians (the population shrinking from some 30% 40 years ago to 2%) and Muslims within Palestine can rarely leave or enter Bethlehem. Nearby Israeli settlements confiscate Palestinian lands while the local economy, heavily reliant on tourism, languishes under ghetto-like restrictions. I explored this situation from November through Christmas 2008 as well as during the summer of 2009 while I lived in the Aida refugee camp. Updated with new photos from spring 2012.

Quakers in Palestine & Israel (Or John Woolman in the Land of Troubles)

What do Quakers, the Religious Society of Friends, have to do with Israel-Palestine? By following some of the activities in the Ramallah Friends School & the American Friends Service Committee’s work in Gaza & the West Bank (& with references to its efforts in Israel), I show how this numerically small but often effective group has made a difference in this land of troubles.

Negev desert, Israel

Other Presentations Available

Though unquestionably didactic, Skip Schiel’ s images are also haunting glimpses of the perilous nature of life in Gaza. The photographs never feel invasive or forced; they simply capture moments of intimate truth between photographer and subject.

—Sarah Correia (Fuse Visual Arts Review: “Gaza in Photographs: Up Close and Personal”)

Negev desert, Israel


Female in Palestine

Women and girls attempting to live normal, free lives in the occupied territories of Palestine.

Gaza is Home to One & One-half Million Human Beings: How Do They Live?

Photos of possibilities: how people live, suffer, stay strong and determined—sumud, in Arabic, steadfast.

The Living Waters of Israel-Palestine

A print version of the Hydropolitics slide show.


Eyewitness Gaza (movie)

About current conditions and struggles in Gaza based on Schiel’s photography, directed by Tom Jackson of Joe Public Films. The context is the Arab Spring. More information.

Skip Schiel in Gaza, photo by Mesleh Ashram



Contact: Skip Schiel, skipschiel@gmail.com, 617-441-7756

Hosting Agreement


Al Quds University (Gaza)

American Friends Service Committee

Birzeit University

Christian Peacemakers Teams

Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel

Friends International Center in Ramallah

Friends of the Earth Middle East

Gaza Community Mental Health Program

Holy Land Trust

Interfaith Peace Builders

Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information

Jewish Voice for Peace (in the United States)

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality

Palestine News Network

Palestinian Hydrology Group

Parents’ Circle-Families Forum

Ramallah Friends Meeting

Ramallah Friends School

Right to Education Program (at Birzeit University)

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

UN-OCHA, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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…There are ten measures of hypocrisy in the world—nine in Jerusalem and one in the rest of the world…

—Avot D’Rabbi Natan

Popular Achievement training session at Birzeit University, a program of the American Friends Service committee in the West Bank and Gaza

Landfill in the Jordan Valley, nominally Palestinian Territory in the West Bank, operated by Veolia, a corporation under sanctions by Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and other BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction) movement organizations

At a protest by Bedouins in the Negev and their Israeli supporters in opposition to land confiscation and village destruction


On May 28, 2012, my last day of seventy in the land of promise and trouble I wrote to my dear friend and partner, M:

i sit on the floor of the ben gurion airport after a night of relatively solid sleep in my car. in the parking lot of the rental agency no one bothered me. i rocked the seat back, cracked the windows open, put on my mosquito lotion, and slept well. a bit dazed when i awoke at 5:30—like you early to enjoy a bird chorus—i struggled to remember where i was, what i needed to pack and do, and how to formulate my story when confronted by airport security. trucks delivering airport construction materials lumbered by as I groggily checked out at the Avis rental office. now i wait until the airport check-in opens for my flight, three hours prior.

my last full day was monumental—mainly with bedouins in the negev desert and their israeli supporters. it was a fit finale to my ten-week journey of discovery. i photographed a long discussion about strategy to stop the land confiscation and forced removal from homelands (reminding me of american indians of course), followed by a fairly large demonstration at a major highway intersection. a bus pulled up and disgorged about thirty bedouin youth who then drummed, chanted, clapped, and smiled at the passing motorists.

i’d hoped to photograph bedouin communities, which i did earlier during the discussion (i couldn’t follow the hebrew of course). instead what i showed were mostly buildings, tents, toilets, animal pens, solar panels, fences, a cemetery and goats, sheep, and horses—not people. the demonstration provided the people, most vitally the women who usually don’t allow their photos to be made. the demo is public; thus they’re more willing.

so that was the kernel of my last day. i’m eager to prepare the photos. i have much to do when home as follow up. i’ve made many promises and received some praise. the work now continues, in many ways harder than while traveling because of other paths, not necessarily conflicting paths, but hopefully always mutually supporting ones.

Near Bethlehem, in the shadow of surrounding settlements-colonies, the weekly protest Catholic Mass at the Cremisan Monastery

As Martin Luther King Jr claimed, those with nothing they’re willing to die for are not fit to live. A harsh statement perhaps but, to me, convincing. The question of Palestine and Israel is my issue, I am fortunate to engage.

This was one of my best trips of seven. Why? Mainly because my nine-year-long accruing experience in Palestine-Israel generates insights, trust, motivation, ability to anticipate, navigational skills, multiple and often contradictory perspectives, and a clearer sense of what is best to show and how best to show it. As I wrote M, I know not to photograph traditional Muslim women unless they are in public situations like the demonstration or if I’ve been invited into their homes. Contacts have led to contacts. David N, an Israeli activist who I met on my first trip in 2003, led me to Haya N and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, which in turn led to the Bedouins. Gilat B from Friends of the Earth Middle East led me to Tal H and not only the community garden project near southern Gaza but to the party at the swimming pool in a settlement to celebrate Shavuot. My many months in Gaza during previous trips generated a desire to explore the militarized perimeter from the Israeli side—a personal highlight, dangerous, delicate, revealing, a theme rarely photographed. Quakers in Palestine-Israel and at home continue to be a huge help. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Ramallah Friends School, Ramallah Friends Meeting, Friends International Center in Ramallah (FICR), my home meeting of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, etc. provided prayers, guidance, leads, and much appreciated financial backing.

On the Israeli side of the militarized barrier between Gaza and southern Israel

I am also slowly learning how to confront my anxieties. A list from this trip might inspire laughter: denied entry at the airport arrested, detained, deported or shot by the Israeli army; run out of gas; lose the car keys; fillings fall out or need a root canal; heart attack; misplace my passport; money and cards stolen; computer breaks or is lost; camera equipment malfunctions; etc. Some of this actually happened—my laptop’s hard drive failed, my credit card inexplicably stopped charging, my memory cards suffered corrupted files, and I had minor problems with a lens. However, I never ran out of gas, I never lost my car keys, I was not injured or arrested, and I experienced no thefts. As Mark Twain said, I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

Bethlehem checkpoint

My primary impressions about the Palestine-Israel situation are these: First, Israel is a laudable country, successful and innovative in so many ways such as agriculture, transport, art and science, image building, and yet the incontestable fact remains that its success is to some extent based on the oppression of another people who have equal if not greater rights to that land. Israel relies—not entirely—on the resources and labor of the Palestinians.

Israeli middle school students help excavate an ancient cistern in the heart of West Jerusalem, a project of Friends of the Earth Middle East and Emek Shaveh

Second, referring only to the West Bank (and not Gaza which I did not enter this time), conditions superficially seem improved—slightly expanded economy and slightly more freedom of movement with fewer internal checkpoints. However, settler violence has dramatically increased, the Israeli government has shifted rightward, the Palestinian Authority appears moribund, and settlement construction continues at a high rate. Impunity and futility reign supreme.

Construction of a dormitory at the Ariel University Center of Samaria, in the settlement-colony of Ariel, deep in the West Bank

Dormitory at the Ariel University funded by the controversial Irving Moskowitz

Ariel settlement

Third, Palestine’s Second or Al Aqsa Intifada (shaking off in Arabic, or uprising) has mostly transformed into nonviolent resistance. Some regard this as the Third Intifada, and much of my photographic work aims at support.

Nonviolent demonstration in the village of Al Masara near Bethlehem

After the demonstration, the commander of the Israeli unit with Palestinian media workers

And fourth is my growing conviction that much Palestinian-led resistance—and Israel’s responses—are formulaic, lack strategy, and prove useless and counterproductive. I witnessed much back and forth between tear gas and bullets responding to rocks and sometimes Molotov cocktails responding in turn to tear gas and bullets. As my colleague Mustafa said, one Molotov cocktail and you can expect five dead or injured Palestinians. In addition I observed that media, including myself, allows itself to be sucked into coverage because of the drama. I write extensively about this in my blogs.

Prisoners’ rights demonstration at Ofer Prison, Israel

My itinerary: one month in Bethlehem with the Palestine News Network, one week in Ramallah with the AFSC and FICR, two weeks in the Jenin refugee camp with the Freedom Theater, one week in Jerusalem with Friends of the Earth Middle East and a second week again with the AFSC, and my final week in the Negev desert. My photographic themes included non-violent resistance to the occupation, corporations benefitting from and sustaining the occupation (one photo assignment was to support a limited divestment campaign), youth, arts as resistance, the environment, Quaker activities, Bedouins in the Negev, ancient habitation sites, and Christians in Bethlehem. In Jenin, Bethlehem, and Ramallah I also taught photography to adults and high school students and helped establish photo archives. I volunteered these services with funding I’d raised privately from friends and the Quaker community.

Palestinian prisoners suffering in Israeli prisons conducted a massive hunger strike which at one point included some 1,600 prisoners, more than one-third the entire Palestinian prison population. The strike elicited Israeli promises to make its policies more humane, promises yet to be realized (as of June 2012). At demonstrations I was able to intersect this theme several times, once to include my Jenin high school photo students in what some might term “an appointment with tear gas and rubber-covered metal bullets”—or “real life photography.”

One of my students at the Ofer Prison demonstration

From 13,290 photos (56 separate folders, totaling 68 gigabytes) made with what I hope is my open heart, my central task now is to supply photos I’ve promised to various organizations, put together new collections for exhibitions, slide shows, and my blog and website, update my blog with excerpts from my copious journals, and seek audiences, most immediately on the west coast in the fall of 2012 from California to Alaska and British Columbia. One way you the reader can help would be to let me know of venues that might wish to host one of my photo presentations. I can supply tour details if asked.

Thanks for following the issues and my work.

You photograph not only with your eyes but with your heart.

—Fares Oda, West Bank AFSC staff

Boys and automatic rifles

Caterpillar at work building illegal settlement-colonies (Har Homa)

Nativity Church and full moon in Bethlehem


American Friends Service Committee

Friends of the Earth Middle East

Negev Coexistence Forum for Social Equality

Palestine News Network (English)

Jenin Freedom Theater

Friends International Center in Ramallah

(With gratitude to Maria Termini for help editing this blog.)

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