In May 2015 the NYC-based Self-Portrait Project traveled to Palestine with a camera, mirror and remote-control device. With Palestine so often in the news as a place of conflict, we were curious about the quotidian details of Palestinian life beyond the violence and uncertainty. And we wanted to find out how Palestinians see themselves. While deeply sympathetic to the humanitarian toll of the occupation, we were eager to explore other dimensions to everyday life as well. In the end, we got a bit of both.
We enabled over 100 people to photograph themselves in seven cities, and in the process produced 17 shoots and 3,000 photos. We traveled to Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Susya, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem over the course of a week. We set up for dancers, after school girls' clubs, nightclub revelers, street life, villagers on the border of the Negev, Jesus' birthplace Bethlehem, university students, and farmers from the largest fair-trade agricultural collective in Palestine - Canaan Fair Trade. These are photos that emerged.
Andy Lin is a National Geographic Traveler award-winning photographer who is the creator and creative director of the Self-Portrait Project – a visual art/archival project which utilizes a stylized photo kiosk to allow people to take high-quality pictures of themselves, under their own terms. He is the co-founder of Other Worlds, a multi-media non-profit that seeks to document and disseminate cases of alternative economies around the world. In 2007 he traveled to West Africa to start "Mali Multi-Media", which taught school children in impoverished communities the art of photography. He is an accomplished speaker on international social change, youth philanthropy and alternative economies and has addressed audiences at the University of Berkeley Law School, Dartmouth College, United World College and the U.S. Social Forum, among other venues. Andy was a member of the board of directors of Grantmakers Without Borders, an international social change philanthropic affinity group, and Resource Generation, a social-change philanthropic organization focused on catalyzing the activism of progressive wealthy youth in America. He currently serves on the board of Other Worlds.
Karmen Ross is a political strategist and Emmy award-winning filmmaker in the international human rights field. Her award-winning documentary Calling the Ghosts, about wartime rape in Bosnia, helped the US Congress and United Nations press for a just settlement to the Balkan wars. It went on to become part of an international campaign to recognize rape as a systematic crime of war. She also helped to track down and prosecute war criminals living surreptitiously in the United States. Ms Ross advised the Bosnian Mission to the United Nations during the negotiations for a permanent International Criminal Court and has collaborated with a host of major human rights organizations in their international advocacy efforts on topics like refugee rights, post-war justice, counter-terrorism, capital punishment and women's rights. She was Director of Communications for the International Center for Transitional Justice, established by the founders of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ms Ross has received recognition for her work as a documentary filmmaker and human rights advocate, including two Emmy awards, a Cable Ace award and a Robert F. Kennedy journalism award. Her work has been featured by The New York Times, CNN, CBS 60 Minutes and Newsweek, among other media outlets.
Jelmer Steenhuis is a designer and fabricator who, in addition to designing and building multiple versions of the project's kiosks, has been a creative and technical advisor to the Self-Portrait Project. He has an interest in history and politics and has been a key actor in the Self-Portrait Project's missions for social change.
Elham Nasser Eddin is a 19 year old Jerusalemite. Aside from from her deep interest in the politics of the Middle East, she is interested in people’s interest of the Middle East.
Dima Hamdan is a Palestinian journalist and filmmaker. She spent 12 years working for the BBC Arabic Service, as a newsroom producer and field reporter, with missions in Baghdad, Beirut, Jerusalem and Washington. She also directed a few short films, and is currently the editor of the Marie Colvin Journalists' Network, an online community offering mentoring and support to Arab female journalists.
Nora Lester Murad, PhD, is a writer and social justice activist living in Jerusalem. Her blog, The View From My Window in Palestine, is at www.noralestermurad.com. Nora has published in the Guardian, Aljazeera, The Hill-Congress Blog, Mondoweiss, Huffington Post, OpenDemocracy, Counterpunch, and in various academic publications. She is a co-founder of Dalia Association, Palestine's community foundation, and Aid Watch Palestine, a Palestinian initiative to fundamentally re-envision international aid. Nora welcomes engagement with all views at @NoraInPalestine.
Sascha Mombartz is at The Office for Visual Affairs, a multidisciplinary branding and user experience design studio based in New York City. We've helped clients like AirBnB, NBC Universal, the Wallstreet Journal, Nielsen Business Media, NYU and a large number of startups from Contently to StartUp Health communicate their vision grow their business though elegant and experiences. OVA is lead by Sascha Mombartz, who previously worked for the New York Times and at Google's Creative Lab. He grew up in Ethiopia, Thailand, Egypt and Germany and studied art & design at the Cooper Union.
Birlam Irfaiyya is a community development and human rights activist born and raised in Hebron.
My work with the community directly, and mainly with children and caregivers, has given me deep insight as an activist and has motivated me to work hard to fight for human rights, mainly for children and women. I have worked for 20 years with international NGOs that empowered me as a female to stand strong and volunteer my free time to raise awareness about the socio-economic and political situation of Palestinian girls and women, with a focus on Hebron city and specifically its Old City. Hebron is a city where the rights of every Palestinian are ignored by the Israelis and the lives of Palestinians mean nothing. I volunteered to work on many issues and the one important thing that I learned is that we should show the world that we are humans and we want to enjoy life as anyone else. I always believe in the words of Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, who asked “on this earth what makes life worth living?”
Many thanks to:
Rebeca Matthews Muna Shami Tina Gharavi Mahdis Keshavarz
Sascha Mombartz Andrew Bradick
Nasser Abufarha and the Canaan Fair Trade farmers Cafe De La Paix
Douban Professional Dance
Totah, Tutanji and Amro families Ben Ward, Good Co., and all supporters therein