Two of our friends whom we met in Israel-Palestine have sites dedicated to photos they have taken throughout their journeys. They are both independent projects and they both approach life and the camera in different ways. And they are both amazing, talented photographers. They also show the lives of oppressed peoples and situations as well as portraits of humanity. For these reasons, I think they should be recognised. Not only for their photography, but for what they are doing with their lives, which makes such a positive impact on the lives of others.
Our friend Alun is currently working for Oxfam in Sudan. His photos are very colourful and spread across a range of geographical areas and a period of the past ten years. His photographs really ‘wowed’ me because I had no idea they existed, even though I’ve seen his very amazing camera while he was visiting us in London last year. He captures the colour and life around the would and shares his perspective of the reality around him that many of us will never encounter in our every day lives. I especially want to note his photo gallery of Darfur Women.
Our other friend, Matthew, is a photographer currently living in Chicago. I think. He’s a little more challenging to keep track of. He set up a project in Palestine called Picture Balata. A slide show of the project can be seen on youtube. [Unfortunately I am having issues placing the video in my site, so you will have to view via this link.] I’ve also included some more information about Picture Balata below…
Outside the West Bank City of Nablus lies the Balata refugee camp. Home to almost 25,000 residents living on less than one square kilometer, Balata is the most densely populated refugee camp within the West Bank. In recent years Balata has seen hundreds of deaths and arrests, dozens of home demolitions and the camp is subject to near nightly invasions by the Israeli army. It is here that the Picture Balata workshop was started to teach youth from the camp about photography.
Picture Balata puts the camera into the hands of the children born and raised inside the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine. Participants ranging from ages 11 to 18 photograph their situation as they live it in Balata Refugee Camp.
Currently we are in the process or organizing a touring exhibition of the young photographers’ work in April 2007. During the exhibition, four of the photographers will travel to the US to speak about their work and about their experience growing up in a West Bank refugee camp. The exhibition will be important for a number of reasons. Not only will it give people in the US a chance to see these kids’ amazing work and hear from them in person, but it’s also important for the photographers to see that there are people in the US who do want to hear what these young people who have always lived under occupation have to say about their experiences.
Another goal of the exhibition is to raise enough funds to make this project self-sustainable. In order to do that we hope to provide each photographer with a new camera, computer, internet access and other equipment they will need to be able to do everything from taking a photograph, editing it on their computer and then uploading it to a website for the entire world to see. We have also been providing the photographers with English lessons so that they will be able to give photographs a caption in both Arabic and English and communicate with English-speakers outside Palestine.
In order to make the Picture Balata dream a reality we are counting on your support. The project was started with only one digital camera and since then we have been able to provide the group with a few more to share between them. They have proved their eagerness to take photographs and share their story with the world with these limited resources but for the project to be fully realized, they require the necessary equipment.
If you have questions about Matthew’s project, or would like to make a donation, please contact him at picturebalata[at]gmail.com.
Both Alun and Matthew are an inspiration to me as I set out to continue developing my own photography skills and work towards a goal of working on a journalistic photography project with Ali sometime in our foreseeable future.