zaterdag 28 januari 2017
Revisiting Josef Koudelka’s Wall – in 1944 Wall Josef Koudelka Photography
Josef Koudelka: Wall
Published by Aperture
Text by Ray Dolphin, Gilad Baram.
Featured image is reproduced from Josef Koudelka: Wall.Josef Koudelka’s Wall comprises panoramic landscape photographs made from 2008–2012 in East Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem and in various Israeli settlements along the route of the barrier separating Israel and Palestine. Whereas Israel calls it the “security fence,” Palestinians call it the “apartheid wall,” and groups like Human Rights Watch use the term “separation barrier,” Koudelka’s project is metaphorical in nature--focused on the wall as a human fissure in the natural landscape. Sometimes blocks of concrete define the panoramas; at other times displaced olive trees--a lifeline for one man, collateral damage in another’s claim for territory--subtly emerge. As in his Black Triangle project, made in the Bohemian foothills of the Ore Mountains in the early 1990s, Wall conveys the fraught relationships between man and nature and between closely related cultures. A chronology, lexicon and captions provide context for the photographs. The book is designed by Xavier Barral, working closely with Koudelka. Wall is part of a larger project, This Place, initiated by photographer Frederic Brenner. This Place explores Israel as place and metaphor through the eyes of 12 acclaimed photographers, who were invited to look beyond dominant political narratives and to explore the complexity of the place--not to judge, but to question and to reveal.
In 1968, Josef Koudelka (born 1938) photographed the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, publishing these images under the initials P.P. (Prague Photographer). Koudelka left Czechoslovakia in 1970, became stateless, was then granted political asylum in England, and shortly thereafter joined Magnum Photos. Prior to Wall, Koudelka published ten books of photographs focusing on the relationship between contemporary man and the landscape, including Gypsies (1975), Exiles (1988), Black Triangle (1994) and Invasion 68: Prague (2008). Significant exhibitions of his work have been held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the International Center of Photography, New York. In 2012, Koudelka was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
Featured image is reproduced from Josef Koudelka: Wall.
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
Individually, these photographs of the ‘security fence’ (as Israelis call it) or the apartheid wall (as it is known by the Palestinians whose lives and landscape are blighted by it) have a stark and spectacular beauty. Taken together they create a daunting feeling of visual incarceration so intense, on a scale so massive, that the sky itself is — by turns — implicated, outraged.
Josef Koudelka's WALL is not a neutral assisment of Israel's construction of a 430- mile barrier separating Israel from the West Bank. His panoramic, black-and-white photographs of the structure and other significant landmarks, made between 2008 and 2012, are disorienting and brutal, utilizing motion blur, angled horizons and perspectives -ranging from expansive to intensely close-up - to contemplate the barrier's material and psychological effects. The captions for the images and other texts, written by researcher and writer Ray Dolphin, by and large focus on the questionable route of the wall and the hardships it's imposed on West Bank Palestinians.
WALL: ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN LANDSCAPE, 2008-2012 is Josef Koudelka's book of purposely ugly photos- from which we cannot turn away. His expansive, brooding black-and-white panoramas have a paradoxical effect: Rather than expand our field of vision they close us in, evoking the experience of closed-off lands and claustrophobic, walled-in streets. The images show not only the familiar eight-meter-tall concrete slabs of what Israel's government calls the "security fence" and Palestinians refer to as the "apartheid wall", but also barbed wire, gates, cages, observation towers, and all the other machinery of segregation.
The New York Times Book Review
The vistas are resolutely grim, and Koudelka makes no attempt to aestheticize them, yet his sweeping photos are overwhelming. The moral chasm that opens between the sheer impact of the visual and knowledge of what is being depicted is fully intended: an invitation to consider, rather than to simply turn the page in horror and sadness.
Revisiting Josef Koudelka’s Wall – in 1944
my father’s photos from his service with the RAF in North Africa from 1941 to 1944 and was struck by the coincidence that many of his shots from 70 years ago are of the same landmarks and in similar places to the landscapes in Josef koudelka’s Wall *(1) which I reviewed a few weeks ago. I was very moved by the bleak story Koudelka tells of the human and environmental damage caused by the building of what the Isreali government calls the “Separation Barrier”.
Someone will have composed a more authoritative before and after than I can achieve using the holiday snaps of a RAF corporal enjoying a few days of relaxation in what he called the Holy Land. Dad was a religious man and his choice of subjects portray his excitement in visiting the places from the Bible. Some have been printed 170mm by 110mm and these have scanned quite well but many are only 80mm by 60mm and these have lost definition in the scanning process. Many are surprisingly good, beautifully composed and carefully exposed, surprising because I don’t have any particular memories of him using a camera until he retired and purchased an SLR to take on post retirement trips abroad.
I wish I could show his and Koudelka’s photos side by side but instead I will do my best to describe the differences and leave it to any interested reader to seek out images from the Wall to complete the picture (Magnum Photography is a useful source). Wherever possible I have scanned in my Father’s photos with the hand written descriptions from the pages of his album as these form part of the story. Overall they show a rural world that had changed little since Biblical times and I’m quite certain that he was intentionally highlighting this point.
Rachel’s Tomb was the photo that started off this chain of thought. This is said to be the third holiest site for Jewish people and is situated between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The structure in the above photograph was build over the tomb around 1620 by the Ottomans. It features twice in Koudelka’s series and in neither case can you see the above structure, I believe it still exists but it has been completely enclosed by a fortress, guard towers, soldiers and barbed wire. In Koudelka’s photos we see the huge concrete walls that have been diverted as a salient into Bethlehem to surround the tomb.
Koudelka tells us that “most of the Jordan valley and Dead Sea is designated as “Area C” and is reserved for the use of the Israeli military.” He shows derelict buildings on the shores of the sea behind a wire fence with a tank track in the foreground.
Koudelka says “Increasingly Palestinian farmers can only access their farmland on the de facto Israeli side of the wall with special Israeli issued ” visitor permits”.
The Good Samaritan Inn is 12 miles east of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. Koudelka’s photo of Nabi Musa which the Arabs believe to be the tomb of Moses is just 6 miles further East. The comparative features are the absence above of what appear to be tank tracks and the barren landscape in Koudelka’s photograph. Whilst not mentioned in my father’s caption I am intrigued by the Arab man in the foreground who appears to be sighting a rifle.
I can’t see the walls of Jerusalem in Koudelka’s photographs but there is an interesting contrast above with his ariel shot of East Jerusalem. A rural landscape outside a medieval city is replaced by urban sprawl and a modern concrete defensive wall separating low rise Palestinian housing from high-rise Jerusalem.
The final photo I have chosen speaks of gentler times. I think this is my Father’s unit enjoying their leave in Jerusalem. Dad is the 4th military man from the right in his RAF cap.
(1) Koudelka, Josef. (2013) Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscape 2008 – 2012. New York: Aperture
03 NOVEMBER 2013