“I was pretty ignorant before I went, and probably still am. I try to keep an open mind before I go anywhere, and I didn’t go there specifically to take photos of conflict. I just wanted to see a little of the place myself. Most of my scant knowledge about Israel & Palestine had come from Western media which often amplifies US attitudes and policy so I read local papers such as Haaretz and Jerusalem Post, and also Palestinian media regularly before I went. The Jerusalem Post is horrifyingly one-eyed while Haaretz seems more balanced.
I was really shocked. It was soon after the Gaza ceasefire so there weren’t any tourists, and my hotel was empty. The tension was palpable. I saw instances of Israeli armed forces treating Palestinians with contempt; Orthodox Jews aggressively marching through the Muslim quarter expecting locals to move out of their way. There were a couple of bomb scares; I was shoulder-butted out the way by a monk in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and yelled at by a nun there too. I witnessed Israeli soldiers preventing people from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque on holy days; there were sporadic sounds of gunfire and sirens; the check-points and separation wall are inhuman…. and so it goes on.
Media reporting seems very biased. As an example, in the last few days, the following fairly typical events occurred in Palestine but weren’t reported in Western media:
- March 05 – Israeli Soldiers Kidnap Five teenagers at Deir Netham village Near Ramallah
- March 05 – Extremist Israeli colonialists infiltrated al-Mogheer village near Ramallah and Burn two Palestinian Cars
- March 06 – Israeli Soldiers Attack Palestinian Police Officers Near Ramallah
- March 07 – Child Shot & Seriously Injured by Israeli soldiers Near Ramallah
- March 8th – Many Injured By Israeli Army Fire Near Ramallah, Some Seriously
Interesting for me was the open friendliness and hospitality of Palestinians in places like Ramallah , Hebron and Jericho which I found to be in sharp contrast with the general vibe in West Jerusalem.
Small things stand out still. I was staying in a small guest house in East Jerusalem which was owned by a Christian Palestinian family. One evening in the café, I sat next to a Christian woman with a gold crucifix necklace who was drinking a beer and sharing a shisha pipe with her Muslim friend who was wearing a hijab. In contrast, earlier that day, Shadi, my Palestinian taxi driver had insisted that I wear a keffiyeh while we were driving near the Jordanian border because he was worried that people would think that I was an Israeli settler.”
Q. There is an unusual personal/family background to ‘Across the Hooghly’, which took you to Kolkata in that 25 years earlier your sister gave up her career as an investment banker and became a nun with Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I understand you travelled out there close tot eh time and caught malaria, travelling back only recently to shoot this series. You have taken the ‘anti-touristic’ approach and seem to have delighted in losing yourself in the backstreets and obscure places that tourists would never see. Why did you take this approach and what influenced or determined the photographs you took?
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