A Poet’s Eye: The Photographic Work of Rula Halawani
A film By John Halaka

“The camera is an extension of the eye.”

Susan Sontag

Rula Halawani is an internationally renowned Palestinian photographer who was born, raised and continues to live in the Mount of Olives neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where her family has resided for several generations. As a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, her administrative identity, assigned by the occupying Israeli forces, is neither Palestinian nor Israeli, but Jordanian. Her externally assigned identity makes her, in the eyes of the occupying forces, a foreigner in her own land. It also jeopardizes her future residence in Jerusalem and Palestine. This imposed administrative identity, deliberately calibrated to dislodge the Palestinians from their homeland, is only one of the countless Orwellian regulations that define the draconian relationship between the occupied and the occupiers in Palestine/Israel.

Life under the longest ongoing occupation in modern history often feels like an extended nightmare that has dominated the personal and collective psyche of millions of Palestinians for more than seven decades. Rula Halawani’s photographs enable the viewer to glimpse the Palestinians’ nightmare and intellectually experience aspects of the destabilizing and dehumanizing pressures imposed on that society by the ongoing Israeli occupation. Whether she’s photographing the apartheid wall built by Israel to imprison the Palestinians, separate them from each other and further divide them from their agricultural lands; or representing the psychologically disconnected, yet physically close interactions of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians at the hundreds of permanent and rolling check points that restrict the movement of Palestinians through their land; or whether she’s photographing a savage incursion by the Israeli military into a Palestinian city; or reflecting on her status as a potential “unperson” in the Jewish state, Rula Halawani’s photographs always transcend the documentary tradition of photography by depicting a seemingly surreal and highly improbable world that could/should only exist in a terrible nightmare. Yet nothing in Rula Halawani’s work is invented or imagined. Her images depict traces of a culture, being pushed before our eyes by the occupying forces, into a state of gradual disappearance and eventual invisibility.

Reflecting on the relationship between the photographer and her/his subject, Susan Sontag wrote in her book On Photography, that “the camera is an extension of the eye.” Rula Halawani’s camera is not only an extension of her eye, but also of her humanity and her cultural and political identity. Her camera acts as a bridge that connects the viewer to her subject, Palestine, and conveys an intimate albeit troubling vision of that land and its people. Rula Halawani’s eyes carefully observe, and her photographs poetically depict, the nightmare of occupation in stark and haunting images.

A Poet’s Eye: The Photographic Work of Rula Halawani

Anticipated Release: TBA. SittingCrow Productions
Produced, filmed, written and narrated by John Halaka.

For further information regarding the film, please contact John Halaka at [email protected] or call 619/260-4107.