A Poet’s Eye: The Photographic Work of Rula Halawani
A film By John Halaka
Rula Halawani is an internationally renowned Palestinian photographer who was born, raised and continues to live in the Mount of Olives neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where her family has resided for several generations. As a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, her administrative identity, assigned by the occupying Israeli forces, is neither Palestinian nor Israeli, but Jordanian. Her externally assigned identity makes her, in the eyes of the occupying administration, a foreigner in her own land and jeopardizes her future residence in Jerusalem and Palestine. This imposed administrative identity, deliberately calibrated to gradually dislodge the Palestinians from their land, is only one of the countless draconian regulations that define the relationship between the occupied and the occupiers in Israel/Palestine.
Life under the longest ongoing occupation in modern history often feels like an extended Orwellian nightmare, a nightmare that has dominated the personal and collective psyche of millions of Palestinians for over sixty years. Rula Halawani’s photographs enable the viewer to enter the Palestinians’ nightmare and experience aspects of the destabilizing and dehumanizing pressures imposed on that society by the ongoing Israeli occupation. Whether she’s photographing the apartheid wall built by Israel to imprison the Palestinians and fragment their remaining land; or representing the psychologically disconnected, yet physically close, interactions between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians at the nearly 600 check points that restrict the movement of Palestinians throughout their land; or whether she’s photographing a savage incursion by the Israeli military into a Palestinian city; or reflecting on her status as a potential “unperson” in the Jewish State; Rula’s photographs always transcend the documentary tradition of photography by depicting a seemingly surreal and improbable world that should only exist in a terrible nightmare. Yet, nothing in her work is invented or imagined. Her images depict traces of a culture being pushed, before our very eyes, into oblivion by its occupiers. A Palestinian culture that although is perpetually stressed and tattered, refuses to break or disappear.
Reflecting on the relationship between the photographer and her/his subject, Susan Sontag wrote in her book On Photography, that “The camera is an extension of the eye”. Rula Halawani’s camera is not only an extension of her eye, but also her humanity and her cultural and political identity. Her camera acts as a bridge that connects us to her subject, Palestine, and conveys an intimate albeit troubling vision of that land and its people. Rula Halawani’s eyes carefully observe and her photographs poetically depict, the nightmare of occupation in stark and haunting images.
Anticipated Release: TBA, SittingCrow Productions
Produced, filmed, written and narrated by John Halaka
Edited: Marissa Bowman.
Running Time: TBA