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Raed Bawayah at Eretz Israel Museum Tel Aviv

With a direct compassionate gaze, without pathos, the photographer Raed Bawayah touches his subjects on a level deep within their selves, reflecting something of the hidden truths of their identities and telling their stories. The simple compositions and four-square format of his photographs create a kind of “windows” into the soul or, as Bawayah says: “A good portrait testifies to the moment of a meeting between two souls: the photographer and the subject.”
Bawayah was born in 1971 in Qatanna, a Palestinian village near Jerusalem. His childhood and youth were occupied with surviving, and he worked in a range of different jobs, including shepherd, construction worker in Israeli settlements, and market trader in the Old City, where he was exposed to the photographic medium. At the beginning of the 21st century he studied at the Musrara photography school in Jerusalem. After completing his studies he received a residency and production grant at the artists’ residency centre “La Cit?” in Paris, where he has been based since 2006, leaving the city for photography expeditions. At the heart of his work stand the residents of his birthplace, Qatanna, in the Palestinian Authority, which he come backs and visits from time to time, but the span of his work is much broader, including photographs from different locations in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.
The photographs in the exhibition are displayed according to the regions where they were taken. The subjects include Palestinian illegal residents and policemen, psychologically challenged people, workers in the charcoal industry, simple villagers, immigrants, Roma people, street people, deprived youth, sex workers and more. All of these, the excluded and the “others”, are viewed from an equal perspective, with a perceptible intimacy created during the encounter between the photographer and his subjects.
The initial encounter in the creation of a portrait is the moment when Bawayah identifies the subject of a photograph and works towards positioning the camera. This pre-photographic vision allows Bawayah and his subjects to resolve their apprehensions and commit to the act of photography. The click of the shutter contains within it the sum of Bawayah’s memories as a man and a photographer, alongside the subjects’ raw memories that float up from the photographs. The simplicity and precision of his photographs bring into focus the essence of the term “punctum” coined by Roland Barthes – the hard and soft “prickings” reflected in the photographs that penetrate the viewers’ being.
This is a human and compassionate exhibition describing the hardships of living in this world. The beauty of the photographs strives for the “sublime”, and they touch on the human spectrum ranging from the “beautiful” to the “hard”. In his photographs Bawayah returns to two homelands: to the village where he was born and his mother, Fatmah; and to black and white. This return is explained in his own words which were the inspiration for the name of the exhibition: “In my black and white photographs, with all their tones and shadows, the black is life and the white is art.”

Curator: Guy Raz Read more

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