I stumbled into Kamel Qadummi during a demonstration at his village, Kafr Qaddum, a few months ago. With his laptop in one hand and a small camera in the other, he was running straight into the cloud of tear gas, breathless. Unlike the foreign photojournalists, he didn’t have a gas mask, yet he was determined to film the events and webcast them live.
Watching him filming evoked many questions that have been gnawing at me lately.
For the past few years, I’ve been documenting stories of Palestinian villagers across the West Bank. I usually try to avoid photographing the weekly demonstrations. Can I possibly add anything significant to the ever expanding archive of protest imagery? All sides involved — Palestinians, Israeli soldiers and media correspondents — have years of experience in this repeated activity that has come to resemble a kind of ritual. Documented by numerous photographers and filmmakers who sometimes outnumber the actual protesters, the events and the images of them repeat themselves in a tragic cycle.
(PHOTOS: The Stone Throwers of Palestine)
Then again, perhaps this never ending cycle is itself the story. As a Palestinian teenager once told me during a protest in Ramallah, “We won’t gain anything from one demonstration. The occupation won’t end tomorrow, we just need to do this every week, again and again — that’s all that matters.” If he is right, then the essence of the story to be told is about the seemingly endless cycle. And if so, why should foreigners document it — particularly when the local bloggers seem to be doing a great job of it themselves? The bloggers are passionate and persistent; they never miss an important moment the way outsiders inevitably do. Now the major media outlets tend to use their work more and more; it’s immediate, often very intimate, and always free of charge.
Back from the smoke, Qadummi smiled and showed me an image he had just taken of a few soldiers, proud that he had gotten so close to them without getting caught. I asked if I could film him working. He agreed. I was curious about his images, and I wanted to discover what he does with them, which of them he would select to publish. It seemed like an opportunity to explore these questions and probably gather a few more.