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Stories from the Frontline

Two photographers brought the human side of Palestine into focus at the Delhi Photo Festival

Written by Glyn Peterson |
November 9, 2015 12:03:38 am
Delhi Photography festival, dpf, photo festival, delhi photo fest, delhi events, delhi cultural events, delhi news, indian express, talk Works by Verena Andrea Prenner and Jost Franko

In the foreground, a farmer on crutches is making his way across an uneven patch of dirt littered with the remains of his once thriving olive orchard. Behind him are houses that have been stripped down to their frames, and workers with baskets of splintered wood and unearthed roots instead of ripe green olives. The photograph is in black and
white, and it is difficult to imagine the bleak landscape existing in anything other than varying shades of grey.“This is what farming in Gaza looks like,” says Slovenian photographer Jost Franko. This image is part of his series titled “Farming on the Frontline”, which documents the plight of Palestinian farmers living in the buffer zone between Israel and the Gaza Strip — both before and after the 2014 war — where 20,000 tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza in 50 days.

Projected at the just concluded Delhi Photo Festival (DPF), Franko’s photographs show a farmer emerging from a decimated home with a curtain acting as a door, children playing on a rusted tractor, a deceased cow shrivelling into barren, rubble-strewn pastureland. “With each conflict, the Israeli infantry strikes the farms first. They say there are tunnels underneath, and the whole area gets bombed. The farms become collateral damage,” says Franko, who spent six weeks in Gaza. Only 19 when he began shooting the series, Franko became one of the youngest photographers to be featured at DPF.

Meanwhile, Austrian photographer Verena Andrea Prenner’s series titled “Contained” documents the equally unsung struggles of Palestinian taxi drivers whose livelihoods are endangered by Israel’s construction of an eight-metre “security wall” in 2002. This wall is theoretically meant to give Palestinians and Israelis more autonomy through allowing the Israeli military to lessen its presence in Palestine, but has restricted the lives of Palestinians. Taxi drivers are among those affected most by the existence of the wall, as they are no longer permitted to pick up or drop off passengers in Israel.

“They were spending their whole day sitting and waiting for customers. They were stuck. I would sit and wait with them, and this is when their stories came out,” says Prenner, 33, whose project consisting of 14 photographs alongside 13 interviews was also exhibited at DPF.

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First published on: 09-11-2015 at 12:03:38 am
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