A Banal Photo /
Vardi Kahana - curator's essay for Local Testimony 15

The photo Jon and Alex has granted Mads Nissen, a Danish photographer, erase the Photo of the Year prize in the World Press Photo contest. The text accompanying the photo, reads as follows:

“… a gay couple share an intimate moment at Alex’s home… Life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is becoming increasingly diffcult in Russia. Sexual minorities face legal and social discrimination, harassment, and even violent hate-crime attacks from conservative religious and nationalistic groups.”

The winning photos of WPP contest throughout the years, have given the world glimpses of wars, severe conflicts, and natural disasters, primarily in the Third World and the Middle East. Therefore, it seems, in January 2015, that there is a declarative dimension in the selection of the winning photo made by the international jury of the WPP, which is based in Amsterdam. As if they are saying: after years of focusing on the endless wars raging in remote regions, we can, for a change, expose what is happening close to us – enlightened Europe – in a powerful neighboring nation.

The jurors’ agenda is apparent not only in their choice of topic, but also, and maybe especially, in the way it is represented. Two lovers in a romantic, soft , ideal image. A photo, which in the West would be considered banal, yet, in the country in which it was taken it is a dangerous provocation.

When the winner was announced in January 2015, one would assume that in enlightened and democratic Israel, his photo would be considered banal, too beautiful, kitsch, and, anyway, the LGBT community in Israel is recognized and receives frequent representation in Local Testimony, in colorful photos from the Gay Pride Parade in the “society” category. The “News” category is mostly reserved for photos of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And then August 30th arrived, the day in which, one, Yishai Schlisse, broke into the ranks of the Gay Parade in Jerusalem, with only one purpose – to murder. He drove his knife into the bodies of seven youths. Shira Banki, a 16 years old high school student, died from her stab wounds three days later.

And while he was yet speaking, there came also another. The following night, August 31st, anonymous jewish terrorists threw Molotov cocktails in Duma village and set fire to the home of the Dawabsheh family, with all its residents in it. Baby Ali was burnt to death; and a few days later, after a prolonged struggle for their life, his parents, Saad and Reham, died from their injuries. Four years old Ahmad, the only one of his family to survive, suffered severe burns on his entire body.

Is there a difference between the murderer Yishai Schlisse and the beheading ISIS terrorists? And is there a real difference between those who murdered the Dawabsheh family and those who murdered the Fogel family? They all murdered in the name of God, with deliberate malice, a sacred evil, and a hatred of the other.

These are the harsh events, which represent the news of the passing year. The ramifications continue to haunt us, and will most likely determine the public agenda for many days to come. As these very lines are written, Israel is flooded with a wave of stabbing terrorist attacks. One attack follows on the heels of another. And in response, vindictive acts of violence are committed.

These days, hatred is the discourse.

Local Testimony is left with only one responsibility – placing the mirror in front of us. Be it as diffcult, bloody, and ugly as it may be.

If we could only have selected for the photo of the year a banal image of two lovers.



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