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Capturing Human Moments Amid Chaos in Israel and the West Bank

 

In “This Place,” an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, life and photography and art cause sparks to fly. Its more than 600 images have been taken by 12 well-known photographers, and document life on one of the most contested stretches of land in the world: Israel and the West Bank, where Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, Bedouins and Africans, among others, often live tensely side by side, and the threat of violence is never far away.​

 

Though none of the images could be considered news photographs, they are rarely less than striking and they vigorously play off one another. When so much art-world photography is staged, heavily conceptual or even abstract, “This Place” is refreshing for emphasizing the genre of concerned or engaged photography. Although engagement may be unavoidable in this exhibition, where history is so heavy and life so fraught. Yet the show is also very much a meditation on the expansiveness of photography itself. Few things illuminate differences in sensibility and style like a dozen photographers finding their way through the same subject.

 

“This Place” was conceived by the French photographer Frédéric Brenner, who has long documented the Jewish diaspora and who has been taking pictures in Israel since 1978, when he was 19.

 

He assembled a team of organizers and raised support from several private sources, determined to avoid government involvement. He ultimately chose photographers who were neither Israeli nor Palestinian, but outsiders. In the end, he also decided to include his own work. In his interview in the catalog, Mr. Brenner tells Charlotte Cotton, the show’s curator, “As my idea began to crystallize, it made sense to invite ‘others’ to question ‘otherness.’”