Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel, edited by Vered Maimon and Shiraz Grinbaum, Pluto Press (2016)
“Photography is an act. It’s not just [about] producing images … it’s an act of protest,” said Vered Maimon, the co-editor, with Shiraz Grinbaum, of the new book Activestills: Photography as Protest in Palestine/Israel.
The book showcases 500 images taken by the Activestills photography collective over the last decade in Palestine.
Oren Ziv, a longtime photographer with the collective, told The Electronic Intifada that Activestills aims to provide “long-term documentation of a situation” where daily violence affects communities and shapes physical and political landscapes.
Activestills has carved out a “new form of practice in which documentary photography becomes a collaborative project,” Maimon told The Electronic Intifada.
The photographers don’t just arrive at an event, take a few photographs and then leave, she said: “They’re both photographers and activists, so they take part in the struggle.”
“Behind the frame”
Ziv told The Electronic Intifada that part of Activestills’ aim is to support communities and “make struggles more visible, but also so that the community itself can use the images.”
He has documented the struggle in al-Araqib, a village in the Naqab desert in present-day Israel which has been destroyed more than 100 times since 2010 as the Jewish National Fund aims to plant a forest on village land.
Ziv said that photos he and his colleagues took during the first demolition of the village were used by the community “to show how the village looked before.”
After the first destruction, he said, “it was hard to imagine that beforehand, there was actually a village [there].”
Residents of al-Araqib also use the photos in their campaigning to stop the forced transfer of their community.
“An event in the field of photography”
For the book, Activestills photographers interviewed people they had documented in order to get “the story behind the frame,” said Ziv.
Activestills also puts on guerrilla street exhibitions, and the first 18 images of the book – all full-page, presented without captions or commentary – show these displays and how the public interacts with them.
“Participants in the conflicts view themselves in the photographs, and Activestills will document this act of viewing yourself as part of a community,” Maimon explained.
“Producing the image, displaying the image, disseminating the image to the community, [is a] major project of Activestills,” she adds.
Co-editor and Activestills’ Shiraz Grinbaum said that the curation and writing process, which took place over several years, was “fascinating.”
The collective, she said, “wanted to tell the story of Activestills as an event in the field of photography, and as an event here in Palestine-Israel.”
Listen to the full interview with Maimon, Ziv and Grinbaum via Soundcloud.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that there are 800 images in the book instead of 500. It has been corrected.
Text by Nora Barrows-Friedman, associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. All images by Activestills.