Messengers of Reality \\ Galia Gur Zeev, Curator

The land is the same, the conflicts are the same. In a kind of undying and relentless ceremony the photographers venture into the field, looking for the next iconic photograph. The thousands of photos submitted this year to the competition prove once again that the photographers have not tired of their mission and continue to serve as witnesses in localities and at events that have become transparent, and which we find far easier to ignore.
In some ways Local Testimony is a retrospective of the year’s events: the intensification of efforts to free Gilad Shalit, the Gaza flotilla, evacuation of the Bedouin village of al-Arakib, deportation of the children of foreign workers, demonstrations of the Left in Bilain protesting against the Separation Fence, conflicts between the establishment and the ultra-Orthodox factions, demonstrations in Sheik Jarach, etc. However, one should not conclude that the media report “covers” all the year’s events, nor does the exhibition allege to accord them full presentation.
The photographs that were sent to the competition were organized in ten categoriesamong them: news, politics, religion and faith, culture and art. This classification is somewhat artificial. Quotidian reality is far more complex and is not organized by the criteria of categories. The classified photographs of Religion and Faith, or Daily Life, for example were often taken from news events, or vice versa.
Press photos always appear together with a mediating text which imposes meaning and interpretation that are not free of manipulation. Separating a photo from the text enables freedom from verbal linearity and a transition to the photograph’s timelessness. Now, the documentary photo is open to new observation, new interpretation, and the suspension of our gaze.
The transformation which the photographs underwent after being accepted, and their exhibit in a museum space, expands the scope of our gaze. The new physical presence, the new choice, the new continuity – all these attest to the fact that the photograph has a new life and additional possibilities. Removing the photo from its initial context postpones its demise.
What is there about a particular photograph that causes it to move from one stage of the competition to the next? What is there about this particular picture, and not another, that echoes and reverberates in our minds? Beyond the content matter, the aesthetics, composition, colorfulness, photographic angles, we have a collective cultural memory.
Today everyone has a camera. Everyone takes pictures of varying dimensions with digital cameras, cellular phones, or videos in real time. In fact, almost every event is exposed to the camera lens. Everything is photographed and eventually will be publicized. Photos that are uploaded on Facebook today will be the next news item tomorrow. Mass photography has launched a battle between professional and amateur photography. The criteria set by newspapers for publishing photographs have faded out in view of the unlimited possibilities that the Internet currently offers. The innovativeness of visual information is the only criterion.
“But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to essence...”
Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, preface to the second edition, 1843