While living in Boston in 2001, I watched in real time on television one of the most traumatic events in American history. In the following weeks I witnessed how different the popular and official reactions to these events were in the United States, from where I grew up, in Israel, where war, violence and terror are almost a daily occurrence. The attacks of September 11th spread fear and anger throughout America that manifested also through people avoiding air travel, hate crimes against muslims, and eventually the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. To understand better the contrast of how these two societies deal with trauma, I decided to launch “Aftermath”. Between 2002 and 2005 I visited and photographed over 120 different locations in Israel that were subjected to suicide bombings. I came to these sites after they had been hastily repaired and the destruction had been erased not only from the landscape, but mostly from the collective memory.
The repetitive, almost obsessive, act of visiting and photographing these sites was not only a way to deal with the guilt of being absence from Israel in times of turmoil, but was also an exploration of the connection between photography, memory and trauma. It was the first time for me that the history of a place dictated where exactly I should photograph. It also challenged me to think about how can it be described photographically considering the burden of history, devastation and the memories of the people affected forever from this quick moment of explosion.
Memory and photography are selective processes. We tend to create memories out of events or things we have heard, but they are not necessarily truthful to the actual occurrence, much like pictures. Photographs represent the world and experiences, but are always different from what they reference. The act of photographing, developing the negatives, making the prints and viewing the photographs takes time and inherently changes the experience from the original three dimensional scene to the small rectangular flat surface.
The phrase “suicide bombing” triggers in our minds specific images, thoughts and connotations based on the photographs we see from sites of terror taken by photojournalists. Most of them attempt to portray the moment, the carnage and the destruction at the scene. In my “Aftermath” I strive to provide an alternative gaze at otherwise mundane or ordinary places, in a remaining landscape. Sites where the history of violence have been removed. The very absence of devastation in these photographs draws attention to the attempt to erase the trauma and thereby gives the situation a presence that resists and confronts the desire not to see and not to remember.
As opposed to being a description of a specific moment in time, they stretch the timeline between the moment of impact, to the moment of making the photograph and the span of time in between.
I am not endeavoring to show the aftermath, but to present a contemplation of what remains and to question the individual and collective capacity of memory.
The stories offered in these photographs are not found in history books, these are the stories about the loss of experience and the history of the place.
In an increasingly desensitized environment of war imagery, we are hardly ever challenged to think about the aftermath.