Let the Pictures Tell the Story

Phil Chetwynd introduces the Scottish-Palestinian network that created the exhibition ‘We Stand With Gaza’.

“It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I was able to convey the people’s message and voice.”

Shireen Abu Akleh

The denial of the message and voice of the people of Palestine is one of the most ubiquitous phenomena of the modern world. Silence is golden for the military-corporate complex that seeks to dominate the narrative in the Middle East. Those who seek to convey the message and voice of the people are shot dead. This was the tragic fate of Shireen Abu Akleh.

However, Shireen’s death was not in vain. Thousands of groups of activists worldwide still keep the story of Palestine alive. One such group is the Network of Photographers for Palestine (NPP), a small group of photographers and activists originally based in Scotland and Palestine, but now with strong roots in Germany and the USA.

fields through iron
Photo credit: unknown. From the NPP exhibition at Trade Unions in Communities, Craigmillar.

NPP was established some 10 years ago by Phil Chetwynd, from Edinburgh, and Rafat Abushaban, from Gaza. The two had got to know each other when Rafat was studying in Scotland. The aim of the Network is to provide a showcase for the very best of Palestinian photography both inside and outside of Palestine. We do this by putting out calls for submissions to all Palestinian photographers both in Palestine and the diaspora. After the closing date, we then ask two professional photographers from the Network to select a suitable number of images for display either in our virtual gallery, or in live exhibitions in venues throughout the world. We have exhibited in Bethlehem and Birzeit, Cologne, and Copenhagen, Tunis, London, Edinburgh, and all the Scottish major cities. We have tried to influence Scottish lawmakers by exhibiting in the Scottish Parliament, and have taken our exhibitions to remote Scottish villages such as Lochinver and Cromarty, where small pockets of Palestine supporters can be found.

Homework in Ghaza (Photo – Ayesh Haroun)

Over the past few years we have developed more international connections in Germany and the United States, and have hosted exhibitions by Ursula Mindermann (‘Palestine through German Eyes’) and exiled Palestinian Najib Joe Hakim (‘Home Away from Home’). We’ve even published a book of this title, which you can obtain by emailing us on the address below. Our latest collaboration is with femLENS, a group of feminist photographers based in Estonia, who have recently been teaching photography skills to groups of women in East Jerusalem.

Another aspect of our work is to encourage local pro-Palestine groups to use our images to create exhibitions in their own localities. We would provide you with prints from our archive, and advice on how to curate an exhibition in your own community. Finally, we are also happy to provide support and advice and contacts to any photographer who wishes to travel to Palestine.

If you’d like to find out more about our work please get in touch at info@nppalestine.org.

For Najib Joe Hakim’s Home Away from Home, email info@socialdocumentary.net.