sabato 16 settembre 2017

Behind Al-Salt project: An interview with Ismael Abdel-rahman Gil


For those who don’t know or ever heard about Al Salt, it’s a town located in Jordan. it’s the capital of the province of Al-Balqa and is located 28 km from Amman. When talking about Al-Salt, I cannot help but think about my many childhood summer memories spent in this city, that sadly those photographic memories impressed in my mind are no longer recognizable in the city nowadays, given the myriad changes that have transpired over time. I remember the few homes that were visible outside of my grandfather’s house, the few lights that lit the horizon in the evening and the hours spent on the balcony contemplating them. I remember when my aunts used to take us to the mountains, surrounded by its beautiful nature where we would sit and drink tea, kept warm on top of an open wood fire. The sound of the man selling pinkish coloured kreizeh (a typical dessert made with water and semolina) on his head wandering around the streets shouting “kreizeh ... children”. Indelible images impressed in my mind. As I grew older I started to become more aware of the rapid changes happening to this small town. The mountains in front of my grandfather’s house morphed from beautiful green trees to a concrete jungle with people inhabiting seemingly every open space. More and more Western-styled houses with red roofs replaced the characteristic charm of the traditional Jordanian yellow stone.

My encounter with Ismael Abdel-rahman Gil was of fundamental importance to this project. Both our origins, in half, is linked to this town and it’s thanks to his detailed researches and hard work that together we tried our best to document every aspect of how once Al Salt lived and how modernization and globalization bought rapid transformation to this town. That’s why with the passing of years I realized that my photography served to capture the changes between past and present, and importantly capturing the past which was of vital importance as it’s the only remnant of a life I once knew and loved.

An interview with Ismael Abdel-rahman Gil. 
Where are you from?

Even though it is one of the most frequently asked questions, it is still very tough for me to answer.

It seems a simple question, however I have always thought of it as something more intricate due to the fact that I cannot answer to it with just a single place-name. In fact, that is why my answer is always far longer than expected. Moreover, I truly believe that just a few people can actually understand what it’s like to have more than one identity or to belong to more than one place.

Throughout the course of my life I have lived in several places within the Mediterranean basin: Jordan, Morocco, Italy and Spain. Nevertheless, I have been always able to see not only the dissimilarity between these places but also their common ground. The tastes of various olive oils, the different types of breads, the different ways cooking the rice with what is left at home or currently in season, as well as baked dough made with some home-grown ingredients and flavoured with herbs of the forest nearby.

Since I am old enough to think for myself, this situation has been drawn up in my mind map of finding my bearings and my own benchmarks. The staircases and streets that define me also confine me. Up or down the street, the whole urban mazy network of the city or the temples. And regarding my senses: the smell of incense, prayer calls by voice or bell and even food callings with no fewer liturgies than praying. The same shall be applied to everything that I hear or see: old men that begin their day reading the obituaries of the newspapers and gathering with those who remain and that haughtily think that they are in possession of the absolute truth. They get together to fix the same world problems by offering the same obsolete solutions, while the eternal half full glass is engrossed in thinking about the possibility of something being sweet and bitter or cold and hot at a time. Can we be in two places at the same time? And what’s more, can we be in two times at the same place?



From Ismael's Al-Salt family album

What makes Al- Salt worth documenting?

These factors that recur in different places and different times are the ones creating or recreating many things, for instance, the clichés, particularly the urban clichés that I have haunted. By this, I am referring first and foremost to the construction and the houses building techniques which endlessly captivate me: Gothic and Neogothic arcades, Ionic, Doric, Solomonic, and Muqarnas columns, Islamic spandrels, domes, transepts, apses, courtyards... the order and the chaos of the cities where I have lived. In short, these are all different architecture styles that can be found in any Mediterranean city and that always leave me speechless.

Al-Salt is, indeed, like any other Mediterranean city. However, it is much more deserving of praise since it is the only city located in an area where magnificent metropolis have never existed as the population was always nomad, Oultrejordain.

Al- Salt successfully became a key trading centre in the east of the Jordan River. New traders and their families were drawn by it and brought with them new artistic movements that mixed together with the local ones made it possible for this city to be as great as any other Mediterranean one.

It may be more humble or sumptuous than other cities, but still in a sense Mediterranean and with the same ingredients. Alt-Salt, which is in a harassed and accused region, shows me that it is possible to be Arab, Tribal, Muslim, or Christian to the point of demonstrating to me that two different characters, such as Saint Jorge and Al-Khidr are the same figure even if their hagiography doesn’t correspond. Although, it is a matter of faith. While some assert that faith is believing in what you cannot see, others claim that seeing is believing.

Therefore, Al-Khidr and Saint Jorge from Salt and Mahis, allowed me to back up what I thought in the first place and then witness by myself, that two can be one, and one can be two, without them being opposed. In other words, it is not contradictory to find two natures in one recipient that are at peace and not in conflict. After all, an olive can sprout from a tree in the same terrace as the wine of a vineyard, without both being the same.

giovedì 9 marzo 2017

LIFE AND HISTORY OF PALESTINE REFUGEES THROUGH THE UNRWA PHOTO AND FILM ARCHIVE

The cameraman seems to have the mission of shooting images meant to accompany a documentary text: most of the time, he films wide shots and the close-ups are either anecdotic either ‘sentimental’, as for example still shots portraits of children or elderly. In this mode of documentary production, (…), the image operator ignores the final editing his images will be submitted to. The cameraman’s role is coverage, he is not supposed to look for interactions or to shoot sequences. [1]

What makes a photograph historical is, aside from the image itself, the date and title and/or caption which contribute to situate it and contextualize it. According to Barthes, for any picture, “the date is part of the photo: not because it conveys a style but because one cannot but notice the date, one can imagine life, death, the inexorable passing out of generations[2]. The name of the photographer could also be an important, though not a necessary, indication.

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and micro finance.

UNRWA refugee images were firstly geared to document and publicize the programs of a humanitarian agency so as to increase donations and, from this perspective, to record and document the refugees’ situations and events.

At the meantime UNRWA archive contains more than 430,000 negatives, 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides, 75 films and 730 video cassettes. In 2009, it was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register, in recognition of its historical value.








For a complete reading: https://palmuseum.wordpress.com/tag/refugee-camps/





[1].Colleyn, J.-P., 2005, “L’analyse des images d’archives : point de vue théorique et étude d’un cas”, in Latte Abdallah, S. (ed.), op. cit., p. 31.

[2]Barthes, R., p. 148-150

martedì 21 febbraio 2017

“Ella Watson” by Gordon Parks, 1942

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was an accomplished photographer, filmmaker, memoirist and breaker of color barriers. Before he was famous, however; before he was Gordon Parks, he had a one-year fellowship as a photographer at the Farm Security Administration. There, under the tutelage of Roy Stryker, he honed his skills.

In 1942, on arriving in Washington to work for the F.S.A., Mr. Parks discovered how deeply segregated and bigotry the nation’s capital was. In a single day, he was refused service at restaurants, barred from a theater and dismissed by a department store clerk. His mentor, Mr. Stryker, encouraged him not to give up. “Talk to other black people who have spent their lives here,” Mr. Stryker said, “They might help give you some direction. Only then should the process of shooting begin”

Taking Stryker’s advice, one of his first opportunities to put his determination into practice came when he talked to a woman who made her living cleaning offices in a government building. Her name was Ella Watson, and her hard work paid her a grand salary of $1080 per year. Parks was struck by the fact that one of the offices she cleaned was that of a white woman who had started work at the same time and with very similar qualifications. She recounted even how she was raising three grandchildren and an adopted daughter with her meagre salary.

Parks remembered: “She had struggled alone after her mother had died and her father had been killed by a lynch mob. She had gone through high school, married and become pregnant. Her husband was accidentally shot to death two days before their daughter was born. By the time the daughter was eighteen, she (the daughter) had given birth to two illegitimate children, dying two weeks after the second child’s birth. What’s more, the first child had been striken with paralysis a year before its mother died.

Gordon Parks considered his portrait of Ella Watson as the very first of his professional career. He recalls that when his boss at the FSA first saw it, he “told me I’d gotten the right idea but was going to get all the FSA photographers fired, that my image of Ella was ‘an indictment of America.’ I thought the image had been killed but one day there it was, on the front page of The Washington Post”  becoming one of the iconic images of all time.






giovedì 2 febbraio 2017

War is not the answer:The story behind Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”

There was plenty going on in 1970s America, and Marvin Gaye’s soulful “What’s Going On” tapped right into it.  Affected by letters that his brother Frankie used to send him from Vietnam, Gaye wrote the lines, “Brother, brother, brother/ There’s far too many of you dying.” The title track of his 1971 concept album offered its own prescription, proclaiming, “War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate.” Motown label didn’t want to release initially Gaye’s album, which addressed a variety of issues and societal troubles such as Vietnam war, drugs, the decline of social situation in America, economy  and the environment, all over a free-flowing musical backdrop that drew on jazz, pop and classical forms. The singer responded that he would not record anything else for the Motown label unless it let it go and he referred to the album as a “gift from God,” and the album’s spiritual dimension found overt expression in his liner notes: “We’ve got to find the Lord. Allow him to influence us. I mean, what other weapons have we to fight the forces of hatred and evil?” With his inimitable voice, he provided nuanced perspective that immediately resonated with audiences – and has so for generations.

In the Spring of 1971, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On disc was a hit becoming among Motown's fastest-selling single releases, hitting Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sadly, on April 1st 1984 the man who sang, “Father, father, we don’t need to escalate,” was fatally shot and killed by his own father due to a conflict with his father dating back to childhood. The wounds were fatal and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the California Hospital Medical Center. Gaye's death inspired several musical tributes over the years including recollections of the incidents leading to his death.




Lyrics:
"What's Going On"

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today - Ya

Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Ah, what's going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on
Right on

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we're wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we've got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Tell me what's going on
I'll tell you what's going on - Uh
Right on baby
Right on baby



giovedì 5 gennaio 2017

Palestine through the eyes of Edouard Boubat

Edouard Boubat (September 13, 1923, Paris, France – June 30, 1999, Paris) was an important french street photographer. One of the main representative artists of the so-called “humanistic photography”, his pictures are characterized by a great poetic touch, strong social sensitivity, and utmost respect for people and places. These photos taken by Boubat about people from Bethlehem are contained in amazing book "Meditteraneo", photos taken in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea,from Palestine to Algeria and from Greece to Spain, and enriched by the words of the Moroccan writer, Tahar Ben Jelloum.

The essence of Boubat’s spirit is summed up in his own words: “Just as love at first sight erases everything and creates a kind of void, so I must confess that, when I take a picture, I have no desire, no intention, no memory. What I am photographing has taken control of me, it is a leap in the dark. It’s over in a second. This vacancy allows the fleeting instant to break through, the instant in which everything is plunged into one unique light.” (From Edouard Boubat: Pauses, 1983) and which are clearly seen in these extraordinary and magical shots taken from Bethlehem around the mid of 50's.







Boubat’s work has been exhibited throughout the world including the United States, Europe, and Mexico. He has been awarded several professional awards such as the National Photographic Prize of France and The Hasselblad Foundation Prize, both in 1988.



 

venerdì 30 dicembre 2016

The story behind Fairuz's song "Kanou Ya Habibi" and the Soviet army "Polyushka Polye"

"Kanou Ya Habibi"  كانوا يا حبيبي is one of the eternal works of Fairuz written in 1974. Originally, and like several of the works of Rahbani Brothers, the music was inspired from the Polyushka Polye Russian army march music and which music was composed in 1933 by the Russian composer Lev Konstantinovich Knipper. Even though the originale version had an intense reference to USSR and its formal glory, Fairuz managed to convert all the patriotic lyrics off the spirit of the music and insert love and drama instead as she played the character of Loulou that was imprisoned despite her innocence for 15 long years..



Origins:
Polyushko-polye (Russian: По́люшко-по́ле; IPA: [ˈpolʲʊʂkə ˈpolʲɪ]) is a Soviet Russian-language song. Polye means "field" in Russian, "polyushko" is a diminutive/hypocoristic form for "polye". It is also known as Meadowlands, Song of The Plains or Oh Fields, My Fields in English.

The music was composed by Lev Knipper, with lyrics by Viktor Gusev in 1933. The song was part of the symphony with chorus (lyrics by Gusev) "A Poem about a Komsomol Soldier" (Поэма о бойце-комсомольце) composed in 1934. The original lyrics are sung from the perspective of a Red Army recruit, who proudly leaves his home to keep watch against his homeland's enemies.

The song was covered many times by many artists in the Soviet Union, including a well-known rock version recorded by The Singing Guitars (Поющие гитáры), released c. 1967. The song has been regularly performed and recorded by the Alexandrov Ensemble, and it is listed in the Alexandrov Ensemble discography, best known as the Red Army Choir....continue

giovedì 1 dicembre 2016

Who was José Ortiz Echagüe?

José Ortiz Echagüe (Guadalajara, 1886 - Madrid, 1980)  was a Spanish Photographer, aeronautical and industrial engineer . He founded the aircraft manufacturing company Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) and was the Honorary lifetime president of Spanish car company SEAT.

Ortiz Echagüe business management combined his passion for photography, a field in which he received prestigious international awards. His photographs were exhibited in many European capitals and in numerous American Photography magazine and  by 1935, he was one of the three best photographers in the world.

His photographic archive consists of more than 30,000 negatives. A collection of human subjects, documentaries and art and more than 1,000 large and beautiful carbón fresson  (a carbon process also known as direct carbon printing) printings, that gave his images a rather romantic or pictorialist look. Among his illustrated books should be cited Spanische Köpfe – Bilder aus Kastilien, Aragonien und Andalusien (Spanish heads – Pictures from Castile, Aragón and Andalusia) was Ortiz Echagüe’s first book . Images of Spaniards in traditional costume often photographed in historical settings.

Although this book had a print run of 15.000 it is now surprisingly rare, especially complete with dust jacket intact continue