The Human Face of the Enemy

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
To what end?

This month’s issue of National Geographic has a two-page aerial photo of Nairobi’s Kibera slum. A closer look reveals greatly magnified photographs of women’s eyes plastered in the middle of the slum. Hmmmm…. I am curious.
To find out more, I go to the fount of all knowledge: Google.
There I discover that the work is part of a larger international project by a photographer who goes only by the name ‘JR‘. The project aims to show the dignity of women who are often the target of conflicts.
Ok. Interesting. I read on.
Turns out JR has done a number of projects, all with the intent of showing the true, human ‘face’ of the opposition in conflict situations.
In one project- which, incidentally, was the biggest illegal photo exhibition ever– he took huge format portraits of Israelis and Palestinians. He then posted these portraits side by side on buildings in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities on both sides of the separation wall. The portraits weren’t ‘Sunday best’ photos either, but were rather of people making faces into the camera. How silly. How human. No one took them down.  
From what I read, none of the conflicts were resolved by any of these photos. But maybe, just maybe, one child will grow up with a little less hate in his heart because he can see that the ‘enemy’ is, after all, just like him.
What I love most about JR is that he combines art with action. In each location he works, he sponsors ongoing art and craft workshops for kids. In the Nairobi slum, his foundation re-covered 2,000 square meters of rooftops.

When art that changes perspective and action that changes lives are combined, possibility is more than just a dream.

Image source 


Today’s 4 Minute Writer  


I never did like photographs. They’re depressing.

As soon as one’s taken, it’s a record of an event that’s gone, a moment never to be repeated.

Years later you look at it and realize you’re fatter, balder. The woman standing beside you is no longer here and the smiling faces gathered around have faded into obscurity.

Moments need to move on, not be captured and held onto artificially.

Live in the now and appreciate what’s around you, because in a moment, it’ll be gone.

 Image source

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Filed under Creativity, Writing

7 responses to “The Human Face of the Enemy

  1. I have to say that I treasure photos, not to compare them with the present state of my life, but to recall the moments that brought me to my present, to appreciate the ones I love, the ones I’ve lost, and the occasions that mattered.

    Your post, “The Human Face of the Enemy”, is excellent! The two photos of men being silly and having fun are the crown of it all, as you point out: “But maybe, just maybe, one child will grow up with a little less hate in his heart because he can see that the ‘enemy’ is, after all, just like him.”

    • Seeing personal photos as a way to treasure people and moments that matter is a great lens through which to view them. My lens is a little distorted and slightly chipped. Maybe I can take it in somewhere to get it repaired.
      I do love the photos of stereotyped individuals shot in a completely humanizing way. Brilliant indeed!

  2. Such audacity is truly awe inspiring, Zoe, you are so clever to track this down. I wonder if one can see them on Google Earth?
    You questioning really is so revealing: you have such a gift for finding a little piece of humanity and using it to make us think, properly. Thanks for this, and every post.

    • Audacity is the right word for it. Can you imagine going up to Palestinians and Israelis and asking them to make faces into a camera so that you can plaster their photos on the ‘enemy’s’ doorstep? He was 25 years old when he did it. I think at that age you don’t stop to think that you can’t do something. And sometimes that’s the only way to get things done.
      Will have to check Google Earth 🙂

  3. Re your Photos post – I would say a highly contraversial view, Zoë. You certainly know how to stir things up 🙂 Thinking about it, I do agree with what you are saying on some level, particularly when it comes to travel – for many, it seems to be about getting the record rather than enjoying the moment , and seeing, observing and meditating on a scene. For this reason, a long time ago I made a decision not to take my camera if I’m ever lucky enough to travel to places like Antarctica, Patagonia, the Galapagos, etc. However, I am very glad to have photos of people I love who have passed on. 🙂 bb

    • Hmmmm….. a distinction between photos of people and photos of experiences. Will have to think about that.
      I know what you mean about seeking to experience a moment fully rather than focusing on capturing it on film. My fear in taking vacation pictures is that over time I will remember the pictures more than the actual moments. Then again, I may lose both over the years… I think, though, that experiences leave their mark on you even if you forget them. So, I’m still ok with few photos. For now. If I get to be old and forgetful, I may wish for photos I don’t have…

  4. It’s not an either or. The spontaneous act of taking a picture is exactly what it is; a moment in time. So is the line of a song, the frame in a film, the sound off birdsong, the smell of a rose, the smile of a child.
    Just obey your instinct, just do it…

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