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Last week, seven Palestinian men sat for Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli photographer Oded Balilty in a home in the West Bank village of Bilin. Against a black backdrop, one man posed with a taut slingshot, two small pebbles resting in the sling. Another stared defiantly through a gas mask. A third carried a tire.

Balilty is no stranger to his subject matter. Based in Tel Aviv as an Associated Press photographer for more than a decade, Balilty has photographed daily clashes as well as the longer-term friction between Israelis and Palestinians. In 2007, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his image documenting a lone Jewish settler challenging Israeli security officers in the settlement of Amona.

Although his subject matter is familiar, his portraits transcend the ongoing conflict.

Clad in checkered kaffiyehs, masks and flags, they carry with them the objects of protest used in resistance against Israeli soldiers. Their improvised arsenal of everyday objects echoes the ongoing conflict—a struggle temporarily put on hold while Balilty photographed the men.

“The clashes have been going for years and years and it’s become repetitive, all these clashes every weekend,” Balilty told TIME. “But, this time I said, ok, I want to do something a little bit different. How am I going to show the conflict in a different way?”

He arrived at the idea of shooting portraits, but consulted with his colleague, Nasser Shiyoukhi, the AP’s Palestinian photographer from the West Bank, for help with the access.

“I asked him if it’s even possible for me, as an Israeli,” he said.

Shiyoukhi helped Balilty get in touch with the organizer of the weekly street demonstrations, who gave his consent for the photos to be taken—even arranging for the portraits to be shot inside the organizer’s house in Bilin, a village in the West Bank.

“The Palestinians are definitely not like the Israelis—they are aware of the power of the media. And any exposure for them, in any way, is an opportunity to explain their situation and to talk about the conflict. They are very open minded—they cooperate for a specific reason,” explained Balilty.

Despite the serious nature of the shoot, the atmosphere inside the studio lacked the conflicted tension Balilty expected.

“It’s a very serious issue. But mainly for me, I was trying to focus on the person and to tell like the general story through a few individuals,” said Balilty.

“On the weekend, they are in those protests, but other than that, they are totally normal people—they live normal lives, they go to school, they work, they have families. But yet these guys are always standing on the front lines of the protest and some of them get injured, some of them get arrested, some of them get killed,” he said.

Looking back on the shoot, the photographer was surprised by the way the day turned out.

“At the end of the day, we became like friends. We spent the entire day together, sat together and smoked a cigarette together, and we [shared] some common jokes and it was a very cool day. I wish, you know…it was like that all the time and everywhere. The experience I had that day…for me was one of the best things.”

Oded Balilty is a photographer for the Associated Press based in Tel Aviv. LightBox featured his work earlier this year in The Art of Storytelling.

LightBox updated the story at 3pm Saturday with comments from Oded Balilty. 




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Back in 2008, photographer Larry Towell’s agency, Magnum Photos, had contacted him about a project in Afghanistan that would require him to embed with the British military. Towell, having just completed work in Palestine, decided that he didn’t want to see Afghanistan for the first time with an embed, and instead set forth to see the country on his own. “It was important for me to learn more about the history of Afghanistan to get some perspective about what’s going on today and see if I even had anything to say,” says Towell, who was later awarded a Magnum Emergency Fund to aid his work. From 2008 to 2011, Towell traveled to Afghanistan five times, documenting in both photographs and videos the various social issues that plague its citizens, from drug addiction and poverty to the prevalence of landmines, many of which still remain from the Soviet occupation of the country during the 1980s.

Larry Towell—Magnum

Larry Towell, Afghanistan: Military

Through five harrowing videos (three of which are shown here), Towell gives viewers a comprehensive look at life for citizens inside conflict-riddled Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the photographs from this project are on display for the first time in Larry Towell: Danger and Aftermath at the Museum London in Southwestern Ontario through April 1. “I wanted to look more at the social problems before I looked at what was going on militarily,” the photographer says. “The victims of the war weren’t just people who were wounded. They were the people living in the rural areas who were forced into the cities without means.”

Larry Towell—Magnum

Larry Towell, Afghanistan: Amputees

Towell is now at work with Aperture to turn his pictures into a book by spring 2013. The poignant publication date means Towell’s recent documentation of the country will be on display just as U.S. forces are expected to end their combat role in Afghanistan.

Larry Towell is a Candian photographer represented by Magnum Photos. Larry Towell: Danger and Aftermath is on display through April 1 at the Museum London in Southwestern Ontario. All images, video and sound ©Larry Towell—Magnum.

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In this post, featuring images from the last quarter of 2011, we remember a tumultuous year of change across the globe, the capture of Khadafi, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the passing of Apple icon Steve Jobs, fire, famine, flood and protests. A memorable year, indeed. -- Paula Nelson -- Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Monday, December 26, due to the Christmas Holiday ) (51 photos total)
A defaced portrait of fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 1, 2011 as the fallen strongman vowed again not to surrender in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Amnon Gutman

The Promised Land

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In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank in an attempt to minimize the entry of Palestinian terrorists into the country. This has partially solved today’s terrorist infiltration problem but has caused grief and pain to innocent Palestinians in every area in which it was constructed, along the 1967 Green Line. In the southern region of Mt. Hebron, the movement of Palestinians who are coming into the country to find work has been disrupted. These people and their families are paying the price for the system of collective control that Israel has decided to implement with the erection of the Separation Barrier. Typically, a day’s work in the West Bank for a builder usually comes to about $18, while a day’s work in Israel brings them $60 – $110. Their families have come to rely on this income. Ironically, these Palestinian men, who are determined to keep providing for their families are the ones who are physically building the State of Israel. They endure terrible conditions as illegal workers, sleeping rough in river creeks, under bridges, on building sites and under highways in the Beer Sheva area, trying to avoid getting caught. If the Palestinians are apprehended, they go through a security check and when found innocent of terrorist intentions, they are sent back to their homes. And so the wearisome cycle continues. Israeli border patrol police and the army are in a constant but only partially successful race to apprehend these Palestinians. Every wall has its weak points. For a young man determined enough, it becomes a way of life- waiting for the right moment, for the prepaid accomplice driver waiting on the other side, depending on his faithful cell phone and on his buddies, all of whom are adjusting strategies to accommodate for the Separation Barrier.

 

Bio

Growing up in a war conflicted region, I have always been deeply aware of the possibility of loss. Photography empowers me to share this insight, demonstrating the horrible, equalizing moment of the possibility of loss, the universality of vulnerability. There is nothing clearer, nothing more precious than the preservation of the life force in the face of violence and disease. This is what I am attempting to articulate with my black and white images of the world.

 

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Amnon Gutman

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At the end of World War II, huge swaths of Europe and Asia had been reduced to ruins, borders were being redrawn, homecomings, expulsions, and burials were under way, and the massive efforts to rebuild had just begun. When the war began in the late 1930s, the world's population was approximately 2 billion. In less than a decade, the war between the nations of the Axis Powers and the Allies resulted in some 80 million deaths -- killing off about 4 percent of the whole world. Allied forces became occupiers, taking control of Germany, Japan, and much of the territory they had formerly ruled. Efforts were made to permanently dismantle their war-making abilities, as factories were destroyed and former leadership was removed or prosecuted. War Crimes trials took place in Europe and Asia, leading to many executions and prison sentences. Millions of Germans and Japanese were forcibly expelled from territory they formerly called home. Allied occupation and United Nations decisions led to many long-lasting problems in the future, including tensions that led to the creation of East and West Germany, divergent plans on the Korean Peninsula which led to the creation of North and South Korea -- and the Korean War in 1950, and the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine which paved the way for Israel to declare its independence in 1948 and begin the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. The growing tensions between Western powers and the Soviet Eastern Bloc developed into the Cold War, and development and proliferation of nuclear weapons raised the very real specter of an unimaginable World War III if common ground could not be found. World War II was the biggest story of the 20th Century, and its aftermath continues to affect the world profoundly more than 65 years later. (This entry is Part 20 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]

German Wehrmacht General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad in a stockade in Aversa, Italy, on December 1, 1945. The General, Commander of the 75th Army Corps, was sentenced to death by an United States Military Commission in Rome for having ordered the shooting of 15 unarmed American prisoners of war, in La Spezia, Italy, on March 26, 1944. (AP Photo)

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In his new book, the filmmaker investigates the mysteries behind some of photography’s most famous news images. Here, Morris walks TIME through five of his fascinating case studies:

TIME: In your first case study, the Crimean cannonball photos (slides 9 and 10), you write about how we can often make certain assumptions about a photographer’s intent that can misdirect us from the truth. How did that play out in these two pictures?

First off I want to say that I don’t think photographs are true or false. I always associate truth and falsity with language, rather than images, photographic and otherwise. People become endlessly confused because they think that some photographs are more true or less true than others, and they get trapped in a strange set of arguments that I believe lead nowhere. If one photograph is more true than another, then you ask yourself, are there things I can do to guarantee the truth of a photograph or to make it more truthful.

Your question was about the intent of a photographer. One of the things that people are most concerned about is the intention to deceive, to trick us, to lead us astray. Well, this pair of photographs, taken in 1855 by Roger Fention, is one of the very first war photographs. A barren landscape bisected by a road littered with cannonballs. The photographs are identical except that in one there are cannonballs on the road and in the other, there are not.

And it leads people to speculate, without even knowing they were speculating, about the order of the photographs, why there are cannonballs on the road in one and not in the other. And I used this as a way to examine our attitudes towards photographs, how we often read things into them things which weren’t there in the first place.

And at one point I even suggest that by thinking about this pair of photographs, we are really examining the nature of photography in general. So I ask a reader to go on an excursion with me. I like to think of them as little mysteries. To try to look at photographs, to try to think about what our assumptions are about them and to accompany me on an investigation into what we’re really looking at.

TIME: In writing about documentary photographs, you say that, in essence, every shot is posed because the photographer always chooses what and what not to include in the frame. I don’t think the average viewer—whether they are seeing a picture in a newspaper or a magazine or a museum exhibition—ever thinks about the fact that each photograph involved a decision of what not to include as much as it did what do include.

Photography is in part how I make my living, and I think about photography and photographs all the time. When you’re creating an image—and most of the images I create are in truth aren’t still images but motion picture images—but when you create an image, I often think about what I’m not including as well as what I am including. Images in part derive their power from the fact that we are excluding so much of the world. They’re focusing our attention in a way they it might not be focused otherwise. I can’t remember my exact wording, but somewhere in the book I talk about how photographs are ripped from the fabric of reality. I like the idea that they are torn out of reality. And we look at them and we don’t see above or below or to the left or to the right, we just see what’s inside the frame. And that’s easy to forget about.

TIME: Something that was apparent to me in your next case study was that sometimes the people who should be skeptical about photographs aren’t. I’m talking about the hooded man photo. The New York Times ran a story that identified a man as the person in that famous photo (slide 8), but it wasn’t him.

It’s probably the iconic photograph of the Iraq war. Photographs become iconic because they resonate with people for all kinds of reasons. And that photograph has been seen by hundreds of millions of people. A number of people said to me, “Well why do you care who’s under the hood? Does it really make any difference? After all, the photograph is not about who’s under the hood, it’s about torture, or it’s about these crimes committed at Abu Ghraib in 2003. Why do you care about the specific details of who it was?” And I would say that I care about both. I care about how photographs are received and viewed by people, but I also really care about their connection to the underlying world. It’s part of the mystery for me. What is it that I’m looking at? Yes, there are well-received beliefs about this photograph, but what really are we looking at? And usually you can’t determine that from just looking at the photograph itself. Usually you have to investigate. Usually you have to look further. And part of what interested me about the Abu Ghraib photographs is that a lot of people were aware of them in this country and abroad, people had views about them, and they made people very very angry for many different reasons, but no one had seemingly bothered to actually try to contextualize them, to try to investigate what it was that we were looking at, as if it was obvious.

And I have an expression that I’m fond of, which is that nothing is so obvious that it’s obvious. It’s usually when we think things are obvious that it’s time to actually look further and to try to look at our underlying assumptions. And by the way, you can investigate and you can come up short. You’re not guaranteed to solve every mystery that you set out to solve. We tried so very very hard to find the guy, the real guy, and came up short.

TIME: With the Sabrina Harmon photos (slides 6 and 7), we first saw them and saw her smiling over this dead body and that smile implied guilt even though it turns out she didn’t do anything—she didn’t abuse the prisoner, she didn’t kill him and she’s not genuinely smiling. But we automatically think that this woman helped beat this guy up and kill him.

We have problems with ambiguity and unresolved mysteries. We also have problems with complexity. Often there’s a need to see people as heroes or as villains rather than in some gray area in between. It’s easier to navigate through life that way. I was criticized for defending Sabrina Harmon. After all, what these bad apples did was terrible. A disgrace. And I am seemingly an apologist for what they did at Abu Ghraib. And I would beg to differ. Take this photograph of Sabrina Harmon and the corpse of Al Jamadi—I was trying to contextualize that image, to put it back into history, and I learned some very surprising things.

In the case of Sabrina. She took a whole range of photographs of that corpse, many of which were to document what she thought was a crime. This man had been beaten to death, presumably by a CIA operative. She had not been involved in any way. She had merely recorded the aftermath of this crime. And she, as indicated in her letters to her girlfriend she felt there was a cover-up going on and that she was going to expose it.

So we look at the photograph and think we’re seeing perhaps a murderer gloating over their crime. And, in fact, what we’re see is something very different.

TIME: At one point, you write the following: “While the technology may have changed, the underlying issues remain constant: When does a photograph document reality? When is it propaganda? When is it art? Can a single photograph be all three? That’s you writing about the Rothstein cow skull photo (slides 1-3). What’s the story there?

The Roosevelt administration had created the FSA, the Farm Security Administration, and they in turn hired photographers who were to become the most famous in history—Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange. These are among the great American photographers of Depression-era America. And they took literally thousands of photographs under the auspices of the government. And Rothstein was sent to the Dakotas to document the drought. And he took a photograph of a cow skull in what looked like to be a close to desert landscape. And this photograph was published in newspapers around the country as an example of how bad the drought had become in the Dakotas.

Well Rothstein did something—you could call it a mistake—he did something that created almost instant controversy when they found out about it. He had moved the cow skull to five or six different locations and photographed it. Now when people became aware there was more than one cow skull photograph and that he had moved them, for artistic purposes is what he argued, he was trying to get a really good shot with the right shadows of the cow skull. Then people say, “Well why that picture and not this one, and what were you doing, were you moving the cow skull? Were you manipulating the photograph to trick people?”

Well here’s the central irony. Here’s one of the ironies. You look at the photographs and you think, ooh, there was a drought. And guess what? There was a drought! Did the fact that he moved the cow skull suddenly invalidate that photograph? Well, you have to know something about the circumstances under which it was taken. And I did try to investigate that issue.

TIME: Finally, let’s talk about these Mickey Mouse in Palestine photos. You have a wire photographer, you have this picture of Mickey outside a bombed out apartment complex in Lebanon (slides 11 and 12). There are questions of agenda, of whether the photographer moved the mouse there, of whether the selection alone implied a bias.

These toy photographs, there was a whole collection of them that came out of Lebanon. And the claim was that pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas photographers are, the way I imagined it, was that they were appearing in the war zone with a big bag of toys and distributing them and taking pictures of them with the intention of misleading people. One way to look at it is that Israelis are killing Palestinian children.

One of the well-known photographs of a toy taken in Lebanon, in southern Lebanon was taken by this Associated Press photographer Ben Curtis. Another irony. That we think we know how that photograph is going to be used, but it was used in just the opposite way in a newspaper than I would have thought, in an anti-Palestinian op-ed. It shows how photographs can, the meaning of them, or what we take to be the meaning of them, can be so easily changed by the context that we place around them, the new story we place around them—the caption that we put under them can change everything.

Believing is Seeing was published by Penguin Press

Gilbert Cruz is a senior editor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @gilbertcruz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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There are many forms of protest, many ways to express an objection to particular events, situations, policies, and even people.  Protests can also take many forms - from individual statements to mass demonstrations - both peaceful and violent. In the last 30 days, there have been numerous protests across the globe in many countries.  The following post is a collection of only some of those protests, but the images convey a gamut of emotions as citizens stand up for their political, economic, religious and lifestyle rights.  -- Paula Nelson (51 photos total)
As protesters sleep in Zuccotti Park, N.Y. police officers receive instructions. A group of activists calling themselves Occupy Wall Street targeted the Financial District for more than a week of demonstrations in late September. The group said they sought to bring attention to corporate malfeasance, social inequality, and the yawning gap in income between America's rich and poor. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

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Exile Without End

There are nearly 4.7 million refugees that have been displaced from Palestine after the creation of Israel more than 60 years ago. Many fled to neighboring countries in hopes of returning after the violence in Palestine had ended.  CBC News correspondent Nahlah Ayed and Radio Canada’s Ahmed Kouaou and Danny Braün spend two weeks in Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut.  Shatilla is one of the poorest and most densely populated refugee camps in the Middle East.  Interactive graphics map out the historical events that affected millions of people.  Still photographs and videos paint a picture of everyday life for the inhabitants of Shatila.  It is a life where displacement has torn the identities away from these people, where their opportunities are stifled.  Children play in the streets with makeshift guns, many resigned to living in encampments.

Hotel Poverty

San Francisco has the third-highest median income in the United States.  Hidden in the shadows of San Francisco’s Financial District are 30,000 people living in single-room occupancy hotels.  Shane Bauer’s project Hotel Poverty reveals masses of people dealing with their daily struggles of turning their lives around, feeding themselves and surviving in the midst of rampant drug use, cutthroat hustlers and substandard living conditions where private showers or toilets are rare.  Various circumstances have  have brought them here, but they share a life in the shadows of society.

Under One Roof

Meet the Lee family; they are three generations of Chinese Americans who share living in their family’s Chinatown building in New York.   According to the Census Bureau, 10% of households in New York City span three or more generations.  The New York Times explores the multi-generational dynamics through innovative use of video that “simulcasts” the three generations at the same time.

Made by Hand
“Distillery” is the first film in the Made by Hand project, a series that celebrates the artisan handmade movement.  The premise is that  the things we use, consume, collect and share are part of who we are as individuals.  Each film in the  series aims to tell the stories behind locally made, sustainable crafts and the spirit of artisans.

Brad Estabrooke is a modern-day entrepreneur who was disgruntled after being laid off from his “lousy job.”  Inspired by local artists in his neighboring borough of Brooklyn, Estabrooke works to realize his dream of learning the craft of distilling to open the first gin distillery in Brooklyn since Prohibition.

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Leeor Kaufman

Sabras – The story of Wadi Fuqin

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Wadi Fuqin, a small Palestinian village, carries the inconceivable complexities of the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The village is a well preserved model of a traditional agricultural way of life, developed thousands of years ago. The community has harnessed the water flowing from the valley’s eleven springs to nourish their fields. Kilometers of canals direct the spring water to storage pools and onwards to the many fruit and vegetable fields. Currently, the agricultural way of life and natural landscape is endangered by many threats. To the east, the massive development of the Beitar Ilit Settlement is posing an immediate danger to the springs, to the west, the planned separation wall threatens to harm more springs and close the village in between the wall and the settlement.

The villagers are not permitted to cross to Israel nor are they allowed to cross to the settlement. Some of the villagers, left with no other income possibilities work in the settlement’s (with special permission) construction site. Building the threat to their village themselves. As an Israeli I approach this story with great passion. A known saying in Hebrew determines that a person is the scenery of his childhood. Wadi Fuqin is part of the scenery of my childhood. The smell of the fresh vegetables, the clear water are a good part of my memories, I grew up in a country mixed with Jews and Arabs and no walls in between. Its true that the atmosphere was not always welcoming on both sides but is still part of my memories, part of who I am. I document the beauty of the place, the significance of the scenery and produce the land brings to its owners, the villagers. I pay close attention to the joy and love the place and produce bring to the villagers, it is important for me to document it, before it might change, for them and for myself.

 

Bio

Leeor is a filmmaker and a photographer. A graduate of the Tel Aviv University’s Film department and the International Center of Photography Documentary and Photojournalism program.
Leeor has worked on independent films and commercial television programs as a cinematographer, film editor and director. His short and feature length films were screened in film festivals and television channels world wide. Currently based in New York, working on film, photography and multimedia projects and teaching at the International Center of Photography.

 

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Leeor Kaufman

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