“mother said the romans did it
it's all because of them"
With fragments of conversation, presented as short, expressive captions like this one, Rosalind Fox Solomon (1930, Illinois) leads us through her artistic view on the conflicting frontiers between Israel and the West Bank, brought together in her book 'Them'. The title indicates the alienation and distance between two frontiers and the generalisation of individuals that the book works against. During a five-month period, Solomon was working in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nahariya, Bethlehem and Jenin, photographing a diversity of people that she met on her way, travelling by local bus.
In 53 black and white images, mostly portraits, Solomon presents the people as idiosyncratic, yet with the specificities of their lives redacted: they are presented without explanation or revealing their geographic residence. Even the graphic composition, centralised square format images, gives each image, each page and each person the same weight. We are therefore led evenly through a series of unique personalities and fragments of people's lives, drawing attention away from the mentally constructed division between “us" and “them". Solomon photographs individuals, couples, friends, people old and young of varying religion and nationalities. She instead offers only a distillation of a few words from her portrayed subjects, poetically brief, sprinkled throughout the book, and ascribed to no one. Words like “i don't know if i killed anyone / i wasn't the one to drag them out “ and “security will be suspicious", serve to build up tension that illustrates the troubled and emotionally disrupted world behind the images.
With 'Them', Solomon aims to express the 'chaos and pressure' that was around her. She photographed those that crossed her path randomly, yet the images contain several intertwined narratives and often illustrate the politically charged situation they live in: Jewish teenagers at Purim, a dumped car in front of the West Bank Barrier, some unconcerned youngsters in their military uniforms and Christians at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
At the end of the book Solomon states: “I tried to reach their souls with mine. Hurts and wounds, confrontation and welcome […] Positive and negative, reflected in my lens." In her images she shows celebration, ritual and loving tenderness but also distance, tears and loss. She comes close to some people and keeps distance to others. Through her striving, she expresses the tension surrounding a division between people, but also the tension accumulating within the people on either side.
Them is available from MACK.