Let us go back five years in time. Kent Klich presents his book “Gaza Photo Album” and shows photos of bombed-out houses in Gaza. Jaber Wishah, vice director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights tell us in the book about a trip with his father in 1974, back to the village where his family had been displaced in 1948 when the state of Israel was formed. As they approach the village his father discovers that the landscape is not the same as it used to be. There are no houses, no life. Once upon a time there was a village. He says, look for the well. When they finally find it, he looks at the sun, takes out a direction, count his steps, fall down on his knees next to a tree and says, here is our home.
The conflict has been going on since then and Kent Klich has portrayed the intrusion for ten years. With this latest book “Killing Time” he summarizes the living conditions in Gaza, a civil society in constant siege. The cover gives us a clue of what to expect in the book. First of all the title “Killing Time ” and then the photo (a film still) of a man along that we don’t really know if he’s resting (killing time) or if he’s dead.
The man on the cover is Gareeb Abed, a lawyer who has filmed himself with his mobile phone. The book is about time and waiting, between the next bombing, without work and with no hope for the future. It’s about killing time and all these years of violence. Gareeb Abed was killed when he was working at the police headquarters in Rafh during the first days of Operation “Cast Lead”, an Israeli military offensive, between December 27, 2008 through January 18 of 2009.
Killing Time is an emotional roller coaster. It begins seemingly harmonious with black and white images of areas where the everyday life is ongoing. Some of the photos have a symbolic meaning. For example, a man carrying a tree where the roots sprawl, going somewhere we don’t know and the photo studio where you can change the background and be photographed against a surging sea of flowers or an open sea. The dream. A series of images from the buffer zone that Israel has established on Palestinian land follows, a no man’s land where Israelis give themselves the right to postpone the Gazans who enter the zone.
In the next chapter we are looking at photo albums that belonged to families who have lived in Gaza. Has lived. Before the bombs fell. Children playing, there is love and harmony and friendship, then pictures of death and decay, but also anger, resistance and protest. The next chapter is a series of still images from mobile movies of accommodation in Gaza, during and after the days of Operation “Cast Lead”. Hours of waiting, waiting for what? A peaceful future, a silent prayer that he might survive? The mobile pictures are a kind of testament to lost lives.
Judith Butler writes in the preface of the book about the camera that follows the family album conventions even when there is no longer any family. Kent Klich also includes images from his “Gaza Photo Album”, the devastated homes, naked window openings, the intense sun that finds its way into the darkness, showing bullet holes, cracks and crumbling walls. The bombed-out buildings tell us about life, even though there is no voice. The voices have either been silenced after a bomb, bullet or a journey of no return. A few families have moved back into the ruins without the possibility to rebuild, because the Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on the entry of building materials.
There is a genuine commitment in all the projects of Kent Klich. His stories of exile and sudden death give us time to think about Gareebs and his family’s situation. It is this long term process that is the strength of Kent Klich’s work just like that of Dutch duo photographer Rob Hornstra and journalist Arnold van Bruggen and their Sochi project. Both Klich and Hornstra makes us understand the pain of losing our loved one’s, of a family where fear is constantly present.
“Killing Time” is an important book; a worthy textbook even for students, a book about history of ethics and morality, conflict, religion, alienation or belonging. Jaber Wishah summarizes ten years in Gaza in the book “Gaza Photo Album”: ” Just like a bird builds a nest every year, we must rebuild our homes, how many times they are destroyed. For there’s no place like home, and no home is home. ” The book is a collaboration with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The book also includes a DVD of the video installation “Killing Time ” which is composed of mobile movies from families living in Gaza. who sadly died during Operation “Cast blood.”
This text has also been published in the Association of Swedish Professional Photographers magazine “Fotografisk Tidskrift”.