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Portraying the Palestinian panorama through beautiful black-and-white analogue photography is the ultimate manifesto for a world-renowned shutterbug showcasing his pieces in Bahrain’s Pearling Path.
Through his first-ever exhibition in the GCC taking place at the House of Architectural Heritage, Palestinian photographer Raed Bawayah tells a tale of humanity beyond borders.
“I want to show the social changes happening in Palestine even more so than the political ones,” the 51-year-old award-winning photographer told GulfWeekly during a recent tour of the exhibition, which is on display until June 22.
“In my photographs, I want to show how events have had a very human impact on people’s lives, without getting into a political discussion.”
Although he has an eye for showing fascinating subjects and perspectives, Raed’s photos stand out just as much for what is missing – colour and context.
All his photographs in the exhibition come with no explainers, despite the documentary nature of his work and even on his social media, he only gives an explanation where it can significantly shift perspective.
Case in point – a photograph of a girl looking upwards gets new meaning with Raed’s caption: “Small blind girl takes a dance lesson at a school for the blind kids in Jerusalem.”
For the lensman, taking portraits of children living in modern-day Palestine is both a visceral way of showing the impact of the ongoing conflict and a way to process his own childhood trauma of having lost his father when he was just six.
“Across my photographs, there are a lot of children depicted, because the Palestinian child in me empathises with them, having been raised just by my mother and seeing how losing my father affected us emotionally, economically and socially,” he explained.
Born in the village of Qutanna, near Ramallah, Raed now lives primarily in Paris, France, but often visits his homeland.
He has received several commissions from the City of Paris, the French Culture Ministry and the Centre National des Arts Plastiques.
Since he graduated from the Musrara School of Photography in Jerusalem, he has held residencies in France, Austria and Germany.
His pieces are part of Paris’ municipal collection, the National Collection of Contemporary Art in France, the Contemporary Art museum in Germany, the Jerusalem Foundation in Israel, the Schloss Akademie Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany and a number of private collections in Europe and Israel.
For more than two decades, he has been photographing exclusively in black-and-white, almost as a defiance of the human tendency to see things in black-and-white.
In particular, he is drawn to the fringes in the human fabric, inhabited by foreign communities, marginalised groups, socially ostracised, mentally ill and abnormal.
Raed is drawn to old cameras, counting amongst his favourite and most used a Rolleiflex 6x6 medium format twin lens reflex (TLR) camera.
“With film, there’s a certain magic and mystique, because you often forget about an image in the time between you take the shot and develop it,” he added.
“And when I develop the photo, dipping the paper in the basin, watching the photo gently appear – it’s almost like a baby being born.”
Although he has devoted his life to analogue black-and-white photography and refuses to go digital despite the challenges of getting film developed, he encourages young photographers to consider what kind of story they want to tell before picking between digital and analogue. “My biggest advice, however, is to just get started and see what works for you,” he added.
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