Another look at Stephen Shore's look at Israel

As the modern state turns 70, we look back at Stephen Shore's take on this country of contradictions
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Jerusalem - Stephen Shore From Galilee to the Negev
Jerusalem - Stephen Shore From Galilee to the Negev

Happy birthday, Israel. Today, the country is marking 70 years, according to the Hebrew calendar, since independence was proclaimed. Of course, Israel's history dates back further than 1948, while its future is fought over by both differing factions within the Jewish state, as well as Palestinians, and foreign powers, keen for a say in the county's affairs.

 

Jerusalem, September 25, 2009 / Hostage - Steve Sabella, by Stephen Shore, from Galilee to the Negev
Jerusalem, September 25, 2009 / Hostage - Steve Sabella, by Stephen Shore, from Galilee to the Negev

The US photographer Stephen Shore is about six months older than the modern state of Israel, yet, when he came to produce his book, From Galilee to the Negev, he knew better than to assume a position of authority. "I didn't want to be the American saying, 'I understand the situation'," Shore says.

Instead, over the course of six trips the country, he chose to photograph, not Israel's ongoing conflicts, but its people's everyday lives.

 

 Beit Jala, January 11, 2010 - Stephen Shore, from Galilee to the Negev
Beit Jala, January 11, 2010 - Stephen Shore, from Galilee to the Negev

"I was based in Jerusalem," he explains, "but Israel is so small that I could go anywhere in the country and be back for dinner. I really got the chance to photograph all over: people on their daily commute, shop signs, food, portraits, architecture and landscapes in the Judaean Desert, and the Galilee. Half the work I did with my 8-by-10 inch view camera and half I did with a new, very high-end digital camera that I fell in love with. My photographs are presented geographically, each chapter heading mirroring Israeli road signs, written in English, Hebrew, and Arabic."

 

Jaffa - Stephen Shore from Galilee to the Negev
Jaffa - Stephen Shore from Galilee to the Negev

There are archaeological sites and markets; people in traditional, religious dress, and the kind of street fashion you find the world over. In widening his brief, Shore managed to produce "some of the best work I’ve done in years," he says.

"With its multitude of images and perspectives, it offers a fresh starting point for conversations about Israel and the West Bank."

 

Ashqelon - Stephen Shore, From Galilee to the Negev
Ashqelon - Stephen Shore, From Galilee to the Negev

There's no one, single viewpoint or perspective, no clear way forward, yet plenty of beauty, vitality and hope, much like this young-yet-old country.

 

Dead Sea - Stephen Shore from Galilee to the Negev
Dead Sea - Stephen Shore from Galilee to the Negev

To see more images and to read insightful essays from such writers as Yossi Klein Halevi; Jane Kramer; and Yotam Ottolenghi order a copy of From Galilee to the Negev here. 


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