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Photography in conflict: Israeli-Palestinian photographers

Ben Baruch Blich
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
Ben Baruch Blich
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
Open Panel

Abstract

The purpose of my paper is to shed light on the role of the photographic image in representing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the first Palestinian uprising (the Indifada) in 2000. By focusing on photography as a major source for unfolding this unending national conflict, I intend to show that photographers have taken a major role in consolidating the narrative of the conflict as well as putting it under critical eyes. To accomplish my goal it is vital to start with the role of photography at large in interpreting historical facts. Would it be an incorrect assumption to say that since the invention of the camera and its penetration into journalism as well as to other major disciplines it has left an unprecedented imprint on interpreting information we acquire by the news. If so, it would be in place to pose the question as to the nature of pictorial representation at large and what makes a picture, or in the case we discuss here – what makes a photograph an efficient vehicle in conveying information vis-à-vis other means of conveying information such as ordinary language. My main question addresses the conflict - what is the contribution of the camera in spreading the conflict, are there different points of view by photographers of the two sides of the conflict, and would the conflict have taken a different route without being exposed by the camera. By analyzing photos done by Israeli and Palestinian photographers based on semiotics, narrative and topical grounds one would inevitably reach the conclusion that photographers customarily take a stand in which their political beliefs are reflected ignoring objectivity and truth. My last point has to do with the question can we trust photos and take them as representing evidence, or should retrieving information from photos take into account not only what is actually represented but also what is actually interpreted by and from them.